Do you know what your Nevada employee benefits will guarantee you when it comes to coverage limits on mental health treatment such as therapy, counseling, or psychiatric center treatment? Do you know, for example, whether the health insurance package provided by your employer must include mental health coverage?
The fact is that the law doesn’t require your health plan to include any kind of mental health treatment. That means no therapy, counseling, or even outpatient or inpatient treatment in a psychiatric center or the mental health section of a regular hospital.
But if your health plan does cover mental health treatments, then something called “parity” is guaranteed by law. Simply put, it means that, whatever the policy sets as a limit on physical health coverage, like surgery, that same limit must apply to mental health coverage.
There is a government agency to enforce this regulation. It’s called the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA). You are likely to be covered by the EBSA – more than 150,000 U.S. employees are. The EBSA formerly dealt only with violations of the laws governing pensions. Now its responsibilities have been extended to health care.
The EBSA is charged with enforcing the Mental Health Parity Act (MHPA). The bill authorizing the MHPA was passed in 1996 and was originally scheduled to phase out on September 30 of 2001. Since then, however, it has been extended 5 times by amendments, and the most recent extension (in February of 2007) kept it activated until December 31 of the same year.
Before the MHPA was passed, an insurer could offer one limit for physical health treatment coverage and another, much lower, yearly limit on mental health care. As an example, a plan paying a maximum of $100,000 for surgery could pay only a fraction of that – $1,500 a year, say – for mental health coverage.
As far back as 1983, for those of you who have been around that long as employers, the state of Nevada self-funded for all of the benefits for its employees. That means that it put away its own money in some sort of trust fund, instead of giving that money to some insurance company for benefits. Some of you employers out there might actually self-fund for your health benefits for your employees, or perhaps your workers’ comp, so you know exactly what I am talking about. Anyway, basically self-finding is a way for you to earn interest on that saved money, instead of the insurance company.
But with programs that are not run well—one of the dangers of self funding, especially on the public side of things—the Missouri benefits system ran aground financially in the late 1990s, and actually the financial problems with the employee benefits system lasted up until 2003. Now, the public employee benefits system is funded enough to make its short term financial commitments.
The issue, however, is long term security. The state carries so called long term unfunded liabilities for future benefits—a fancy way to say that the state will run out of money in te future sometime and will not be able to pay health benefits to its employees after that point. This risk threatens to make the state’s bond rating drop, which threatens to make the state a bad risk all around for loaners.
So the governor’s plan, to give the $31 million is spare cash directly to the benefits program, as well as another additional $19 million from other sources, should shore up the benefits fund. To make sure it stays sound, the governor is also hiring a financial manager to run the fund. The current 26,500 employees of the state and the 6,800 retirees all should be happy about this.
New employers in the state of Nevada, on your mark, get set, get your unemployment insurance posters on your walls. You have joined a proud group of businesses in one of the fastest growing states in the Union. And with that membership in the group of Nevada employers comes certain responsibilities. One of them is to provide all of your employees at all of your facilities with the info they need about their rights and responsibilities as an employee. This includes their rights to unemployment insurance, workers’ comp, their rights to serve in the military, and every other topic covered by the labor law posters required in the state of Nevada.
But membership in the group of Nevada employers also means another responsibility on your part—paying taxes. As we have seen in blog entry after blog entry today and yesterday, unemployment taxes are one of the forms of payments that new business, old businesses, and even acquired and bought out businesses must pay to the government to stay in business.
When a new business starts up operations in the state of Nevada and hires employees, for instance, they have to pay the new business unemployment insurance tax rate, which amounts to a rate of 2.95 percent of the wages paid to each employee on their pay roll, up to a certain limit of the wages. Depending on what quarter you first registered as an employer in the state, you remain at this 2.95 percent rate for up to 14 to 17 quarters.
Then after that time period is up, you go to what is called (and what we’ve talked about) as the experience rating tax rate. Along with this tax, employers in the state of Nevada have to pay a Career Enhancement Program tax of .05 percent of these taxable wages.
As stated on Nevada Unemployment Insurance Posters, Unemployment Insurance is a Federal/State insurance system established to protect workers by paying benefits during periods of involuntary unemployment and aid the business community by stabilizing the available work force. The system is funded through payroll taxes on employers.
Generally, any employing unit that has paid wages for employment in Nevada of $225 or more during any calendar quarter must register with the Employment Security Division, and pay taxes on those wages. In general, an “employing unit” means any individual or type of organization, including any partnership, association, trust, estate, joint-stock company, insurance company, corporation, or a receiver or trustee in bankruptcy. If you are an employing unit, you are required by law to post Nevada Unemployment Insurance posters in areas visible to your employees.
Employers starting a new business in Nevada must pay unemployment insurance (UI) tax at a rate of 2.95 percent (.0295) of wages paid to each employee up to the taxable wage limit. The employer retains this rate for a period of 14 to 17 calendar quarters (depending on the quarter in which he becomes subject to the law), after which his rate will be determined under the “Experience Rating” system.
Once an employer becomes eligible for “experience rating,” he will receive one of 18 unemployment insurance (UI) tax rates, ranging from .25 percent to 5.40 percent of taxable wages. Each employer’s tax rate may vary from year to year, depending on previous experience with unemployment and the rate schedule in effect.
Nevada Unemployment Compensation Law does not define “independent contractor.” It uses what is commonly referred to as the “ABC” test. This test is unique to the Unemployment Compensation Program. Unless otherwise specifically excluded, payment for personal services is deemed subject to unemployment taxes unless the following conditions are met. All three conditions must be met in fact; a written contract alone is not sufficient. The burden of proof rests upon the employer to demonstrate the existence of these conditions as described on Nevada Unemployment Insurance posters:
The person has been and will continue to be free from control or direction over the performance of the services, both under his contract of service and in fact; and
The service is either outside the usual course of the business for which the service is performed or that the service is performed outside of all the places of business of the enterprise for which the service is performed; and The service is performed in the course of an independently established trade, occupation, profession or business in which the person is customarily engaged, of the same nature as that involved in the contract of service.
If you cannot demonstrate the above conditions, the person is an employee. A written contract, in itself, does not establish “independent contractor” status. If in doubt, contact the Contributions Section for a ruling. Please see the Nevada Unemployment Insurance posters for further information.
If you become unemployed through no fault of your own in Nevada, you’re eligible to receive unemployment insurance benefits. You should file as soon as you have one week of full or partial unemployment, where you earn less than $362 in that week. The system is fairly easy. Basically there are two steps to the process.
First, you create a claim by phone or on the Internet. Claims become effective the Sunday before they are filed, regardless of which day of the week you filed. This claim is effective for one year, or until you have exhausted all of the benefits that are available to you.
You must then either call or use the Internet to contact the unemployment office and request the payment for that claim week. This is the second step of the process, and it certifies the week you’ve waited as a week of unemployment. You cannot call before the next Sunday, but you may make the call anytime from Sunday to the following Saturday to request the claim for the previous week.
Your eligibility may be questioned if you were laid off for reasons other than lack of work, or if your employer gives you severance pay or vacation pay. You may lose benefits if you refuse work or make no effort to look for work. Most people probably know that the claims have to be filed weekly, but it can’t be emphasized enough because if you don’t file them, or if you don’t respond to a request for information, you may lose benefits.
As a person receiving unemployment benefits, you must report to Nevada JobConnect and let them review your job search. They can also determine if you need assistance with reemployment. Failing to report to JobConnect or refusing their services can make you ineligible for benefits.