Can a startup company offer health insurance to salaried executives and not to hourly workers?

January 17, 2016

I’m going to break this question down into a few bite size chunks because there are a few different ways this can go. The current guidance to this question falls to IRS notice 2011-1 spelling out non-discrimination language in the Affordable Care Act. Here’s the rub. The provisions have been put on hold until the IRS comes out with new guidance regarding what is to be considered a highly compensated employee for the purposes of non-discrimination testing on a company health insurance plan. Even when the guidance comes from the IRS, any changes will not take place for at least 6 months after issuance of the guidance. This new guidance has not been released by the IRS up to this point.

Can a startup offer health insurance to salaried executives and not to hourly employees if those employees are considered full time?

No. This goes to vendor level specifications in their contract provisions and underwriting guidelines. There isn’t a health insurance vendor that I am aware of nationwide, and i’ve dealt with all the majors, who don’t spell out what is to be considered an eligible employee in their contract and in their employer level application. Usually the employer application will spell what is to be considered a full time eligible employee at 30 hours a week or allow for a company to dictate a guideline up to 40 hours. The point is that the vendor will require that all employees above a certain number of hours (considered full time) to be considered eligible employee and as such be offered coverage. Does that make it federal statute, not yet. At the same time, are you putting your signature to the health insurance application, yes.

The insurance companies know what is coming, that’s why they do it. If a company is doing something they shouldn’t when the enforcement begins, the vendors are going to cover themselves. Indirectly, they are covering their customers by forcing their hands too.

Can a startup offer more to executives in terms of benefit toward health insurance versus hourly (rank and file) employees?

As of the time of this writing, yes, but that will be changing and probably soon. Obamacare dictates that paying more in benefit to an executive class of employee violates the non-discrimination provision of the Affordable Care Act. This is laid out in full in IRS release 2011-1. But, and it’s a big But, these aspects regarding non-discrimination testing (not so dissimilar to what you would see on 401k plans) were put on hold, were held for comment on the laws by the IRS, and subject to further guidance before the components of the laws were to be enforced. Once again, as of this writing, the guidance hasn’t been handed down by the IRS, therefore a company can offer more in terms a contribution or benefit to an executive class of employee versus the rank and file.

Does this make it a good idea? Not my call, that’s yours. Understand that when the other shoe drops….and it will….violating the enforceable statute will be costly. A resource from the Society for Human Resource Management that goes into more detail concerning this are as follows:

Nondiscrimination Rules for Health Plans Loom Ahead

For those that want the quick and dirty, penalties of $100 per day, per employee who gets less favorable treatment up to 500k is the penalty. Not someplace you want your company to be knowing that these rules are going to be enforced at some point down the road.

Needless to say this issue is fraught with potential landmines. My advice, just don’t do it. If you need to make things right with an executive, make it up someplace else besides on healthcare, the downside is just too big given the changing environment.

 

When should a startup consider Directors and Officers liability coverage?

January 1, 2016

Here are a few trigger points where a company will want to get this directors and officers coverage in place.

A prerequisite to a funding round

One point at which it makes sense to insure your directors is if getting a pile of money depends on it. In many cases, VC or private equity firms will make this a contingency to closing a round of funding for a company. The amount of coverage will be set by the entity but more often than not it is a stock 1mm coverage amount. EPLI may also be a component of this prerequisite and would be a seperate line item in a comprehensive management liability policy, just be aware.

You are trying to land a board member and they require it

I’ve had clients out in Silicon Valley try to bring experienced people in to become part of a board of directors. The people that were targets of these companies were experienced old hands in the tech and startup space, so one of the first requirements these folks had was making sure that D&O was in place. If you are trying to put a board in place made up of experienced industry veterans, be prepared to have Directors and Officers coverage become part of the conversation.
A third time frame is a little more of a judgment call on the timing, but if you yourself are an officer and are asking this question, you will want to consider it when you feel it is time to……

CYA-Cover Your Ass

As soon as there are directors and officers acting in a management capacity, there is a need for this type of coverage. Most bootstrapping startups will put it off until there is a trigger and that’s understandable but if the company has some traction and is moving along well enough where the resources are there, get this in place.
Claims made against the directors and officers of a company can put their personal assets at risk. In the event that a director or officer is named in a lawsuit on a claim that stems from the management of a company, there is a high probability that other insurances such as General or Professional Liability will not cover such claims. Directors and Officers coverage deals with precisely these types of issues. With the broad range of issues facing company management, the scope of potential litigants and the rise in claims made against directors and officers, if you aren’t looking into this type of coverage, you probably should be.

For more information you can check the following related posts:

Management Liability policies: Is it just Directors and Officers coverage?

How does Directors and Officers coverage work?

More posts