Several people have contacted me with questions regarding Utah employee benefits. Specifically, they want to know if any state or federal law requires their group health insurance to cover mental health treatments, and if the insurer can set a low limit on payments for mental health treatments. Like a lot of questions in labor law, the answer is a little more complex than the question suggests.
Let’s get the simplest part of the answer out of the way first. There is no law requiring that your group health insurance cover any mental health treatments. Although most employers offer plans that do, there are still many that do not cover any type of therapy, or counseling. Even inpatient or outpatient treatment in a hospital or mental health facility may be excluded in some plans.
However, there are several laws in place regarding the extent of coverage, if it is offered. In particular, the Mental Health Parity Act, known as the MHPA, requires that any group health insurance plan that funds mental health treatment, cover it at the same level as other medical treatments, including surgery.
The MHPA bill passed in 1996 included a provision to expire on September 30, 2001. However, the law has been amended 5 times, extending it. . In February 2007, the MHPA was again extended to December 31, 2007. It’s a fairly safe bet that this law will be with us for some time to come. Under the MHPA, mental health treatments must receive parity with other types of treatment.
Prior to 1996, many group health care plans set very low annual limits for mental health treatments. A health insurance plan that paid up to $100,000 per year for surgery might pay only $1,500 per year for mental health treatment. Today, that would be illegal. The plan would have to pay the same amount for both types of treatment.
Most Americans with insurance are covered by employee benefit plans. The federal government has a specials agency to enforce law regarding employee benefits and pension plans, the Employee Benefits Security Administration, or ESBA. More than 150 million workers are covered under ESBA plans. The current name reflects the reality that the agency now handles as many violations of law concerning health care as pensions.
The rules in the state of Utah when it comes to who is liable for unemployment insurance taxes may be a little bit more clear cut. When it comes to any business, the rule is that all you have to pay is more than $1 in wages in a calendar quarter. So basically, if you have one employee and pay him anything, then you are liable for unemployment insurance taxes.
Another way to become liable in the Utah unemployment insurance system is to acquire a business from an employer that was already liable under the Utah Employment Security Act. The two other main exceptions to these rules, though, are if you are an agricultural company, or if you are dealing with domestic servants. In the case of the agricultural employers, you have to pay more than $20,000 in wages in a calendar quarter to become liable, or employ 10 or more workers in 20 weeks over the course of a year.
When it comes to domestic workers, which you may or may not have at home (say, a babysitter), the rule in Utah is similar to the rules we have seen in many other states. That is, you could be liable for the unemployment insurance benefits of your domestic workers if you have paid them more than $1000 in any calendar quarter.
Oh, and I forgot nonprofits. If you are a legitimate nonprofit employer, the rule for you is that you have to have four or more employees working for you in 20 weeks over the course of the year in order to be liable for their unemployment insurance taxes.
All of this sound confusing? If so, just remember that the key is always registering with the state once you become a new employer. You can do so online at the state’s unemployment insurance Web site, or the old fashioned way, by telephone, fax, or mail. Either way, once you register with Utah, they will surely tell you whether or not you are liable.
The Utah U.I. program, as defined on Utah Unemployment Insurance posters, is a federal/state partnership established in 1936 to provide temporary financial assistance to eligible unemployed workers. This program provides economic stability to workers, families, communities, and the Utah economy as a whole.
The unemployment insurance program is operated on general insurance principles, wherein employers pay contributions to fund benefits for workers during periods of unemployment. Contributions collected from Utah employers under the state unemployment tax are used exclusively to pay benefits to unemployed workers. All receipts from this tax are deposited with the U.S. Treasury in the Utah Unemployment Compensation Fund.
As stated on Utah Unemployment Insurance posters, eligibility for U.I. benefits is based in part on wages earned in insured work, not on the unemployed workers individual or family financial resources. As such, U.I. is not welfare, Social Security, worker’s compensation, or disability assistance.
All new or acquired businesses paying wages in Utah are required to register with the Department of Workforce Services. Registration is also required for an existing business if the entity or ownership of the business has changed, i.e., from a proprietorship to a partnership or a partnership to a corporation, etc.
In general, you are subject to taxes as defined in the Utah Employment Security Act if you have paid wages of $1 or more during a calendar quarter, you acquired your business from an employer who was subject to the Act, you pay wages of $1000 or more in a calendar quarter to a worker who performs domestic service, you employ agricultural workers and pay total wages of $20,000 or more in a calendar quarter or have 10 or more employees in 20 different weeks during the calendar year, you are subject to the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA), or you are a non-profit organization exempt from income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and have 4 or more individuals in employment for some portion of a day in each of 20 different weeks during the calendar year.
There are two types of UI tax rates, new employer rates and “earned” rates. The new employer rate is assigned to employers who have less than one fiscal year (July 1 to June 30) of reporting experience. Earned rates are assigned to employers with one or more fiscal years of reporting experience.
New employer rates are assigned upon completion of the New Employer Registration process or submission of the Status Report, Form 1. If you register on-line, you will immediately be assigned your tax rate. If you mail or fax the registration form, you will receive a notice of your new employer tax rate in the mail.
I found that each state has its own laws and regulations that govern unemployment insurance. Individual states are required to follow guidelines that the Federal government puts forth.
In Utah, each employer that has over 4 employees must have unemployment insurance. The unemployment insurance will protect workers who then lose their jobs through no fault of their own. Contrary to popular belief, a worker’s taxes do not pay for unemployment insurance; instead, it is actually the employers that pay for it.
In order to collect the benefits of unemployment, a worker needs to prove a variety of things. First, the worker needs to be unemployed through no fault of his or her own. For example, the worker can be laid off or can be part of an organization that closes. As long as the employee has received a base pay for a base period of time, the employee qualifies for unemployment insurance benefits.
Next, the former employee must actively seek employment. He or she must apply for a minimum number of jobs each week and be able to prove that he or she has made a good effort to find some sort of employment. An unemployment counselor may check up on you and if so, you need to provide full information about your activities and applications.
When you receive unemployment benefits, you will receive a maximum or minimum number of dollars each month. If you are selected for a job, you must have a very good reason for not accepting the job if you do decide to turn it down. If you are offered part time employment, it is possible for you to still receive some unemployment benefits in addition to the part time employment paycheck.
Unemployment is a temporary measure designed to help unemployed workers get back on their feet and maintain an income as they search for a job. The program is not to be taken advantage of, and to guard against such a risk, individuals collecting unemployment benefits are frequently subject to visits from unemployment counselors.