DOJ Supports Federal Court Ruling Invalidating the ACA
On Dec. 14, 2018, a federal judge ruled in Texas v. Azar that the entire Affordable Care Act (ACA) is invalid due to the elimination of the individual mandate penalty in 2019. In response, on March 25, 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a letter with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals agreeing with the lower court’s ruling. This means that the DOJ believes the lower court’s ruling should stand, and the ACA should be struck down as unconstitutional.
Following the ruling, however, the federal judge issued a stay and partial final judgment in the case. As a result, the ACA will remain in place pending appeal. The Department of Health and Human Services also confirmed that it will continue administering and enforcing all aspects of the ACA.
All briefs and responses in this appeal are due by mid-May 2019, and oral arguments will be scheduled shortly thereafter. Following oral arguments, a decision on the appeal will be issued. However, many industry experts anticipate that the Supreme Court will likely take up the case, which means that a final decision will not be made until that time.
While these appeals are pending, all existing ACA provisions will continue to be applicable and enforced. Employers and individuals must continue to comply with all other applicable ACA requirements. This ruling does not impact the 2019 Exchange enrollment, the ACA’s employer shared responsibility (pay or play) penalties and related reporting requirements, or any other applicable ACA requirement.
Parts of AHP Final Rule Are Struck Down by Federal Court
On March 28, 2019, a federal judge ruled that parts of the Trump administration’s 2018 final rule on association health plans (AHPs) were invalid. The court directed the Department of Labor (DOL) to reconsider how the remaining provisions of the final rule are affected.
In its ruling, the court stated that the final rule was an “end-run” around the ACA and that the DOL exceeded its authority under ERISA.
The court specifically struck down two parts of the rule:
- The provision defining “employer” to include associations of disparate employers
- The provision expanding membership in these associations to include working owners without employees
Employers and business owners without employees that have joined an AHP, or are considering doing so, should review how their plans may be affected by the court’s ruling. According to the DOL, participants in AHPs affected by the court’s decision have a right to benefits as provided by the plan or policy, although these plans may change their rules going forward. Contact us today for any questions on AHPs.
An employee’s mental health includes how they think, feel and act, and includes their emotional and social well-being. While mental health includes mental illness, the two aren’t interchangeable. An employee can go through a period of poor mental health but not necessarily have a clear, diagnosable mental illness. Additionally, an employee’s mental health can change over time, depending on factors such as their workload, stress and work-life balance.
While 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness annually, a recent study by Deloitte revealed that less than half receive treatment. A study from the Mental Health in the Workplace Summit also found that mental illness is the leading cause of disability for U.S. adults aged 15 to 44 and that more workdays are lost to mental health-related absenteeism than any other injury or illness.
Given its prevalence, you can expect that employees at your organization are experiencing mental health challenges or mental illness. That’s why it’s so important that your organization creates a culture that is supports employees’ mental health. While this may sound complicated, creating a workplace that is supportive of mental health and illness is easier than it seems. Here are five simple ways that your company can support employees and their mental health.
Promote Mental Health Awareness in the Office
The first step to creating a workplace that is supportive of employees’ mental health is promoting awareness and destigmatizing mental health or illness. Provide resources to help employees learn more about mental health or mental illnesses, and give information about how employees who may be struggling can seek out help. When you openly talk about mental health, employees are more likely to feel comfortable about the concept and reach out to managers or co-workers if they’re struggling.
You can also establish a workplace environment that is supportive of mental health by:
- Encouraging social support among employees, such as an organized support group that meets regularly
- Setting up an anonymous portal through which employees can reach out to let HR or managers know that they’re struggling with high stress and need help
- Providing training on problem solving, effective communication and conflict resolution
- Promoting your employee assistance program (EAP), if you offer one
Offer Flexible Scheduling
Work-life balance, or a lack thereof, can affect an employee’s mental health. To help employees better balance their work and personal lives, employers across the country are embracing workplace flexibility. While this looks different at every company, workplace flexibility can include flextime, telecommuting and unlimited paid time off (PTO) policies. Flexible schedules provide employees with job satisfaction, better health, increased work-life balance and less stress.
Address Workplace Stress
Nearly 80% of Americans consider their jobs stressful. Chronic workplace stress can contribute to increased employee fatigue, irritability and health problems. Additionally, workplace stress costs U.S. employers approximately $300 billion in lost productivity annually.
While it may not be possible to eliminate job stress altogether for your employees, you can help them learn how to manage it effectively. Common job stressors include a heavy workload, intense pressure to perform at high levels, job insecurity, long work hours, excessive travel, office politics and conflicts with co-workers.
You can implement various activities to help reduce employee stress, which can improve health and morale—and productivity.
- Make sure that workloads are appropriate.
- Have managers meet regularly with employees to facilitate communication.
- Address negative and illegal actions in the workplace immediately—do not tolerate bullying, discrimination or any other similar behaviors.
- Recognize and celebrate employees’ successes. This contributes to morale and decreases stress levels.
Evaluate Your Benefits Offerings
Review the benefits you offer to ensure that they support mental well-being, too. Evaluate your current health plan designs. Do they cover mental health services? Reviewing the offerings that your organization provides is essential to creating a culture that supports employee mental health.
In similar fashion, look to see what voluntary benefits you can offer to support mental well-being. Consider offering simple perks like financial planning assistance (as financial stress often contributes to poor mental health), employee discount programs (where employees can receive gym memberships, stress-reducing massages or acupuncture at a lower cost) and EAPs to support your employees.
Provide Mental Health Training for Managers
One of the most significant problems hindering mental health support at work is the stigma that surrounds mental health. Despite the recent moves in society toward destigmatizing mental health, issues still persist. To ensure that no stigma surrounding mental health exists at your organization, it’s important that you properly train management in recognizing the signs of mental illness, excessive workplace stress, workplace bullying and fatigue. Moreover, managers should be trained to handle potentially difficult conversations with employees surrounding their mental health. Ultimately, they should be prepared to speak openly about mental health rather than avoid the topic. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Workforce webpage to learn more.