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Delayed Effective Date for SBC Rules is Good News for Employers

Employee Benefits Law Alert John L. Barlament

The three federal agencies that enforce the health care reform law announced a delay to the "summary of benefits and coverage" ("SBC") rules. The delay is a welcome relief for employers, who had faced a March 23, 2012 deadline. The new compliance date remains unclear.

Overview of SBC Rules. An SBC is a short summary of a health plan's terms - in some senses, a "mini-SPD." The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (now called the "ACA" by regulators) generally requires employers and insurers to create the SBC and distribute it to participants and beneficiaries. A draft template SBC was released by the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS"), Department of Labor ("DOL") and Department of Health and Human Services ("HHS"). That draft SBC is available here: http://cciio.cms.gov/resources/files/08222011_updated_2715_guidance.pdf.pdf.

Comments Provided and Changes Upcoming. The IRS, DOL and HHS sought comments on the SBC. A number of entities submitted comments with many stating that the SBC rule should be delayed beyond the proposed March 23, 2012 deadline. The new guidance confirms that this deadline will be extended; although, no new deadline has been provided.

The new guidance also states that the agencies intend to issue final guidance as soon as possible. Until that final guidance is released, employers do not need to comply with any SBC rules.

Practical Impact on Employers. Most employers will be very pleased by the new guidance. Employers who had begun preparing for the March 2012 deadline will likely hold off on further efforts until final regulations are released.

Link to Further Guidance. The new guidance can be found here (see Q&A 1): http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/faqs/faq-aca7.html.

For more information contact the author of this alert, John Barlament, at (414) 277-5727 / john.barlament@quarles.com. You may also contact any of the following Quarles & Brady employee benefits attorneys: Marla Anderson at (414) 277-5453 / marla.anderson@quarles.com; Amy Ciepluch at (414) 277-5585 / amy.ciepluch@quarles.com; Sarah Fowles, at (414) 277-5287 / sarah.fowles@quarles.com; Angie Hubbell at (312) 715-5097 / angie.hubbell@quarles.com; Paul Jacobson at (414) 277-5631 / paul.jacobson@quarles.com; David Olson at (414) 277-5671 / david.olson@quarles.com; Robert Rothacker at (414) 277-5643 / robert.rothacker@quarles.com or your Quarles & Brady attorney.