If you are employed in the state of Missouri, there are a few things about Missouri employee benefits that you need to know. If your health insurance coverage has no provision for mental health related problems, there is nothing you can do about it as it is solely on the employer’s discretion whether to provide for such problems or not. But if you are fortunate enough to have a plan that covers mental health, there are laws that govern how much you should get for treatment, if ever need be.
Up till the year 1996, an employer who chose to provide mental health coverage could decide him or herself how much should be allocated to such treatment. Sometimes this resulted in strange disparity between the amounts designated for physical problems compared with the psychological or mental problems. An insurance plan could provide up to a hundred thousand dollars for surgery, but only a thousand for mental health. As a consequence, an employee could hardly afford counseling, let alone detailed treatment.
The Mental Health Parity Act was enacted in 1996, to ensure that mental health treatments must receive parity with other types of treatment. This resulted in employee health insurance providing the same amount of insurance for both physical and mental health problems. Consequently, an employee could receive comprehensive counseling or even surgery for his mental problems, if they ever arise.
At the time of its enactment, the MHPA was supposed to expire in 2001. But this law has undergone several amendments. In February 2007 it was extended up to December 2007. Judging from the history, one can safely assume that this law is going to stay for some time in future.
The Employee Benefit Security Administration or EBSA is a government body created to enforce the employees’ benefits and pension plans. Currently, more than a hundred and fifty million employees are covered by EBSA.
An extension in the expiration of an existing law will impact Missouri employee benefit plans.
This ruling was issued by the US Employee Benefits Security Administration, also known as EBSA. EBSA is the agency of the federal government that ensures businesses comply with pension and health insurance laws. US EBSA covers most businesses and applies to over 150 million workers in the US.
This ruling extends the expiration date on the Mental Health Parity Act, also known as MHPA. Signed into law in 1996, this law was originally due to expire at the end of September 2001. Instead, the expiration date has been extended 5 times. Under the recent ruling, the act is due to expire on December 31, 2007.
The Mental Health Parity Act impacts group health insurance plans that contain coverage for mental health treatments. Before this act, insurance companies could legally set one maximum benefit amount for surgery and other medical treatments and then set another maximum benefit amount for mental health treatments.
Under MHPA, the limits for these treatments must be the same. In other words, if a group health insurance plan has a lifetime maximum benefit of $250,000 for medical treatments and surgery, then the lifetime maximum benefit for mental health treatments must also be $250,000. Not only do the lifetime maximum benefit amounts have to be equal, the annual maximum benefit amounts must be equal as well.
Mental health treatments can include visits to a licensed therapist, a psychologist, or a psychiatrist. In addition, rehab stays for drug and alcohol abuse can be covered. Also included are stays in a mental hospital for conditions such as depression and schizophrenia.
If a business has a group health insurance plan that does not cover mental heath treatments, MHPA has no impact. This law only applies to group health insurance plans that have coverage for mental health treatments.
All employers in the state of Missouri should be happy that the Division of Employment Security from the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations is so up to the task when it comes to collecting unemployment insurance taxes from delinquent or fraudulent employers. Why? Because after all that effort you go through to comply with the unemployment labor laws in Missouri, including posting your mandatory unemployment insurance labor law poster, you should expect all of your fellow employers to go through with the same troubles. If not, they are burdening the system, and guess who will ultimately foot the bill for this burden? You and all of the other lawful employers in the state.
It also works both ways too. The Division of Employment Security also collected from workers who got benefits when they should not have. The Department of Labor and Industrial Relations collected more than $1 million from these unemployment insurance claimants. Usually these folks got these improper payments when they still collected unemployment insurance after going back to work, or hiding some sort of facts—like the fact that they got fired instead of laid off—that would otherwise have made them not available to get the benefits.
What is the lesson in all this? Well, at least in Missouri, the lesson is to know that the unemployment insurance system is working because the people in charge—the Division of Employment Security—are out there making sure that employers and employees are following the letter of the law. It also works because solid employers like you are there to post your unemployment insurance poster as lawfully required, as well as report your quarterly payroll and pay your unemployment taxes on time and accurately as appropriate according to your experience ratings.
I think for the past few blogs we have done a good job of going over the two main steps that new employers must do to comply with the unemployment insurance system requirements in most states in the United States. Those were of course to register with your state’s system and to ascertain your liability for paying unemployment insurance benefits. And to acquire unemployment insurance posters for each and every one of your work sites and posting them prominently somewhere in the facilities where your workers could read them pretty easily and regularly.
But once you are set up in such a system, like Missouri’s unemployment insurance benefits system for instance, there are steps you can then take to make your compliance a little less costly and a little more efficient for your business.
When you start out in the Missouri unemployment insurance system, for example, you start by paying a fixed percentage of your employees’ salaries as a tax for unemployment benefits. In Missouri, this fixed rate is based on a Standard Industrial Classification, so new businesses of the same ilk all pay the same fixed rate starting out as employers. At this point, you as an employer cannot affect that rate. Good behavior cannot make it go down, and bad behavior will not make it go up.
After two to three years of this, however, you cease being a “new” employer in the eyes of the Missouri unemployment insurance system, and your rate becomes what is called an “experience” rate. This experience rate is based in part on how many of your former employees have made claims on the unemployment system. In other words, if you have a more stable work situation and have less employees getting laid off, you will have fewer former employees claiming unemployment benefits, and you will have a lower experience rate on your taxes. The vice versa is true as well, and your rate can go up if you have more layoffs and more employees claiming unemployment benefits.
In Missouri, Unemployment Insurance is paid entirely by employers who are determined liable based on Missouri Employment Security Statutes. The State Unemployment Insurance Laws must conform to certain standards in the Federal Unemployment Tax Law administered by the United States Department of Labor. One such law is to post Missouri Unemployment Insurance posters where they are easily visible by employees. By conforming to these laws, Missouri employers are allowed to take a credit on federal unemployment tax returns (FUTA), if state taxes are paid timely.
Of prime importance to the Division is the prompt payment of unemployment benefits to eligible claimants. As stated on Missouri Unemployment Insurance posters, a person must have worked in covered employment and earned certain qualifying wages to be entitled to any unemployment insurance benefits. A separate record is kept of each worker’s wages as reported by their employers on quarterly contribution and wage reports.
An account is maintained for each employer to which tax payments are credited and to which unemployment benefits paid to the employer’s workers are charged. The employer’s tax rate is calculated annually and is based on the relationship of the account balance to the employer’s average annual taxable payroll.
For a sole proprietor, partner, or member of a limited liability company which is classified as a sole ownership or partnership, some family members may not be reportable for state unemployment tax. The family exemption does not apply to the family of the officers or stockholders of a corporation. Wages may not be reportable if the worker is the sole proprietor/partner/member’s parent, spouse, or son or daughter under the age of 21 (natural, adopted, stepchild or foster child).
If you have an active account and have sold your business, closed your business or will operate without employees for the foreseeable future, you need to file a Report on Change of Business Operations. The Division may need to close your account or, if you have sold your business, may need to transfer it to the new owner.
If you have an active account and will have employees in the future, you must file a Quarterly Contribution and Wage Report each quarter, even if you paid no wages in the quarter. Failure to file may cause the Division to assess you for estimated wage amounts and may cause you to receive a penalty.