MA Paid Family Medical Leave Payroll Deductions to Begin October 1st

MA PFML is a statewide program that gives eligible employees paid time off for family and medical leave beginning January 1, 2021. PFML will provide employees up to 12 weeks of paid family leave and 20 weeks of paid medical leave or up to 26 weeks of leave to care for a family member who is a service member. All Massachusetts employers with one or more employees are subject to the PFML law. Employers must submit contributions on behalf of employees. After a three-month delay in implementation, employer deductions under PFML will begin October 1, 2019 which will represent the first quarter of payroll withholdings. These withholdings, and in some cases employer payments, will be remitted to the Department of Family and Medical Leave (DFML) via MassTaxConnect 30 days following the conclusion of each calendar quarter and will begin with the first payment made on or after Oct. 1, 2019. Contribution percentages depend on your average number of covered individuals from the last calendar year. Employers with fewer than 25 employees do not have to contribute to the employer portion of PFML. Employers with 25 or more employees must pay an employer contribution amount. 1099-MISC contractors may be considered covered individuals. See the link below for help in determining who is a covered individual for PFML purposes.

The DFML has released the revised allocation of PFML contribution rates beginning October 1, 2019. Employers must begin withholding and paying Massachusetts family and medical leave contributions at an initial rate of 0.75% (up from 0.63%) of each employee’s wages up to the 2019 Social Security wage base of $132,900. Based on the new rate of 0.75%, 0.62% funds medical leave and 0.13% funds family leave. Employers with 25 or more employees may withhold up to 40% of the medical leave portion of the contribution from employees’ wages. Employers with 25 or more employees are required to fund the remaining 60% of the medical leave contribution, however they are not required to contribute to the family leave portion, although they may choice to do so. See the link below to access the DFML’s calculator tool for help in determining your contribution amount.

Important Dates:
September 30, 2019 — Employers and covered business entities are required to post a notice and provide written notice to their current workforce. A sample poster and tips on crafting your written notice can be found here.

October 1, 2019 — Payroll withholdings begin. MA PFML has created a tool to help you estimate the number of your covered individuals. The tool can be accessed here. Help in determining your contribution can be found here.

December 20, 2019 — Deadline to file for a private plan exemption for first quarter contributions.

January 31, 2020 — First quarterly contribution payment due through MassTaxConnect.

The DFML’s website has a lot of valuable information, tools and webinars that you may find helpful in answering most of your questions regarding PFML. A link to the Department’s website can be found here.

Get Eligibility Right the First Time or Pay for It Later

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Missing, incorrect, or late information regarding eligibility can lead to mistaken interpretation of coverage, no coverage/denied claims, or incorrect participant information. These can all lead to overbilling, underbilling, and claim payment errors. Additionally, eligibility errors can “over-obligate” the plan by allowing an invalid member to linger on the plan, for example: enrolling in COBRA for 18 months or longer. The ACA prohibits a rescission of coverage except in cases where the individual has engaged in fraud or made an intentional misrepresentation of material fact. This emphasizes the importance of getting eligibility correct the first time!

One area that is often overlooked or not tracked efficiently are the circumstances surrounding when a member terminates their coverage under the group health plan. Coverage in the group health plan will end based on the termination language outlined in the plan’s medical plan document. It is important to be aware of these terms and to realize that termination of coverage does not necessarily mean termination of employment. There are situations when a member may no longer be eligible for the health plan while still maintaining their employment with the employer, for example:

  • Illness / Disability
  • Federal FMLA
  • State Continuation/FMLA
  • Workers’ Compensation
  • Leave of Absence
  • Reduction of Hours

Termination Pitfalls:

Divorce This is a difficult area to track as the employer may have to rely solely on the member’s notification. Without that, ex-spouses could be left on the plan and only discovered when a claim is filed with stop loss.
Aging off Dependents are no longer eligible upon attainment of age 26. Refer to your plan document for the actual coverage end date/qualifying event for dependents.
Workers’ Compensation WC typically leads to a reduction in hours which is considered a COBRA event. Also, if your plan specifies that an employee working under a specified number of hours is not eligible, then extending coverage to someone with reduced hours will contradict the plan and will lead to concerns with stop loss coverage.
Actively at Work Employees who are left on the plan but are not actively at work can be flagged when a stop loss claim is filed. Medical records and/or payroll records will show that the person could not/was not at work.
Leaves of Absence Be sure to follow your plan document language as to any continuation of coverage provisions for leaves of absence. FMLA requires continuation of coverage for up to 12 weeks. Various states have implemented paid family and medical leave that will require continuation of coverage for a certain time period. Once this time period is exhausted, employees must be offered COBRA if they have not returned to work.
COBRA Be familiar with COBRA rules concerning qualifying events, secondary qualifying events, the timeframe to offer COBRA, and when COBRA can be terminated.
Late Terminations As a self-funded plan, you are responsible for paying your member’s claims. A late termination could mean costly, high dollar claims for medical and Rx being incurred and paid for by the plan for an inactive member.

Diversified Group encourages all plan sponsors to follow its best practices for enrollment, such as:

  • Fully completed enrollment forms, annually
  • Verification of loss of other coverage
  • Verification of marriage, divorce, birth or adoption
  • TPA and COBRA administrator should be the same or at least working together in real time

The plan administrator has a fiduciary duty to manage a self-funded plan in a manner that serves the best interests of the participants and the beneficiaries. This includes following the instruments of the plan, such as the rules outlined within the plan document. Failure to do so can be costly!

Always contact Diversified with any questions concerning an enrollment, eligibility, or termination.

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MA Paid Family and Medical Leave – Delay of Payroll Tax Deduction

Compliance

The Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave law (effective in 2021) requires employers to start making financial contributions to support the paid leave program starting on July 1, 2019. The law allows employers to deduct a part of the required contribution from each employee’s wages (along with an employer contribution*) to fund the program. The initial contributions are set at 0.63% of each employee’s wages.

On June 12th, the Governor, Charlie Baker, announced a three-month delay to the start of the payroll tax which would have begun July 1st. The delay is to help clarify the provisions of the program and to give employers adequate time to adjust and implement the program. The goal is to have the new tax in place by the fall. This delay comes in part due to the May 20th request from Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) and various labor groups requesting the delay, as well as fixes to the policy that better align the law with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

*Employers with fewer than 25 employees do not have to pay the employer share of the cost. 

Diversified Group will stay up-to-date on this issue and pass along any further developments.

2019 PCOR Fee Increase

For 2019, the annual fee to fund the federal Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), paid by employers that sponsor self-insured health plans and by commercial group health insurance providers, will go up by about .06 cents per employee or dependent enrolled in the health plan. The fees are due by July 31. The chart below shows the fees to be paid in 2019, which rose slightly from the fees owed in 2018.

Plan Year Ending in 2018 Fee per Plan Enrollee for
July 31, 2019, Payment
Plan year ending on or after Oct. 1, 2018, through Dec. 31, 2018, including calendar-year plans.

$2.45

Plan year ending on or after Jan. 1, 2018, through Sept. 30, 2018

$2.39

For self-funded plans, the self-insured employer is responsible for submitting the fee and accompanying paperwork to the IRS. PCOR fees are reported on IRS Form 720, Quarterly Federal Excise Tax Return. On page two of Form 720, under Part II, the employer needs to designate the average number of covered lives under its applicable self-insured plan. Although the fee is paid annually, employers should indicate on the Payment Voucher (720-V)—located at the end of Form 720—that the tax period for the fee is the second quarter of the year. Failure to properly designate ‘2nd Quarter’ on the voucher will result in the IRS’s software generating a tardy filing notice.

Sponsors of self-insured health plans will pay their last PCOR fee by July 31, 2019 (for calendar-year plans) or by July 31, 2020 (for certain non-calendar year plans). The PCOR fee will no longer apply for policy and plan years ending on or after Oct. 1, 2019. The final filing for a calendar year plan will be July 31, 2019, with respect to the 2018 plan year.

Clients who have elected to have Diversified Group assist with the PCOR fee calculation can expect an email in June which will include a copy of the completed Form 720 and a PCOR calculation worksheet with supporting documentation. Clients will need to file the Form 720 by July 31, 2019.

DG Compliance

Updated Draft Regulations for MA Paid Family and Medical Leave

Compliance

The newly created Massachusetts Department of Family and Medical Leave released updated draft regulations on March 29th for the new Paid Family and Medical Leave law. The Department will hold several listening sessions in May throughout the state before issuing final regulations sometime before July, 2019. Below is an outline of the draft regulations with pertinent information for employers concerning their obligations under the law.

Provision Description
Key Dates
  •  July 1, 2019, final regulations due and quarterly reporting instructions due;
  •  July 1, 2019, employers must begin employee payroll deductions;
  •  July 1, 2019, new hire notice distribution begins;
  •  July 1, 2019, informational posters must be displayed on or before this date;
  • October 31, 2019, contributions (employer and employee) for July through September due;
  •  January 1, 2021, most leave available;
  •  July 1, 2021, all leave available;
  •  January 1, 2023, Retaliation against an employee for exercising rights under the PFML will be prohibited.
Governing Agency The Department of Family and Medical Leave (DFML) within the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.
Benefit Administrator The Department of Family and Medical Leave (DFML) within the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.  Except for employee notification, quarterly reporting, collecting and remitting contributions, employers are not involved in the benefit determination or payment of benefits.  However, note that the DFML may contact the employer for information on an employee that applies for benefits.  When this happens, employers will have 5 business days to respond to DFML.
Covered Employers All employers (one or more employees) who are required to contribute to the Massachusetts Unemployment Insurance program (UI) must submit contributions on behalf of their employees to cover the portion of PFML contribution due from employees, as well as make their required employer contribution to the medical leave portion.  Employers with fewer than 25 employees must submit contributions on behalf of their employees, however they are not required to pay the employer portion of the contributions for medical leave. Cities and towns are exempt but can opt in to the program; employers not covered by UI can also opt in to the program.
Eligible Employees All employees who meet the monetary eligibility requirements of the state’s UI program (i.e. the employee must have earned 30 times the weekly unemployment benefit that the employee would be eligible to receive and must have earned at least $4,700 during the last four calendar quarters). No minimum hour requirement.

Additionally employees whose employer they contract with issues 1099-MISC to more than 50% of its workforce are covered employees.

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IRS Publishes PCOR Fees through September 2019

The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Trust Fund fee is a fee on issuers of health insurance policies and plan sponsors of self-insured health plans that helps to fund the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), which was established by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The institute assists, through research, patients, clinicians, purchasers and policy-makers, in making informed health decisions by advancing the quality and relevance of evidence-based medicine. The institute compiles and distributes comparative clinical effectiveness research findings. Under the ACA, all medical plans are responsible for paying the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research fee to the IRS, based on the number of plan participants. If the plan is insured, the insurance carrier pays the fee on behalf of the policyholder. If the plan is self-insured, the employer/plan sponsor must file the Form 720 for the second quarter and pay the fee to the IRS directly.

The IRS recently published its PCOR fee for policy and plan years ending January through September 2019 and the applicable dollar amount is $2.45, which is multiplied by the number of covered lives determined for the appropriate period.

The PCOR program will sunset in 2019. The last payment will apply to plan years that end by September 30, 2019 and that payment will be due in July 2020. There will not be any PCOR fee for plan years that end on October 1, 2019 or later.

The PCOR fee is paid by the health insurer for fully insured plans. All self-insured medical plans, including health FSAs and HRAs must pay the fee unless they are considered an excepted benefit:

    • A health FSA is an excepted-benefit as long as the employer does not contribute more than $500/year to the accounts and offers another medical plan with non-excepted benefits.
    • An HRA is an excepted-benefit if it only reimburses for excepted-benefits (e.g., limited-scope dental and vision expenses or long-term care coverage) and is not integrated with the group medical plan.

The PCOR fee is calculated off the average number of lives covered during the policy year. That means that all parties enrolled will have to be accounted for such as dependents, spouses, retirees, and COBRA beneficiaries. Depending on when the plan starts and ends also can determine the fee per form. Participating employees and dependents are counted as covered lives. For HRA and health FSA plans, just count each participating employee as a covered life.

Clients who have elected to have Diversified Group assist with the PCOR fee calculation can expect an email in June 2019 which will include a copy of the completed Form 720 and a PCOR calculation worksheet with supporting documentation. For the current year, clients will need to file the Form 720 by July 31, 2019.

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