RI Department of Labor and Training

Free Employer Workshop Reviews HIPAA and COBRA Regulations

August 30, 2011

The Business Workforce Center at the RI Department of Labor and Training will host a Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) workshop for employers. The free, 90-minute workshop is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 12 at 9 a.m. and again at 1 p.m. at the DLT administrative offices, 1511 Pontiac Ave., Cranston.

Federal COBRA applies to businesses employing 20 or more workers and allows eligible former employees and their dependents to continue their enrollment in group health coverage for a period of time after they have been laid off, have been fired or have resigned. While the former employee usually pays the full cost of his or her coverage, this can be a more affordable option than purchasing individual health insurance coverage. In Rhode Island, additional state COBRA law applies to businesses employing 2 to 19 workers, but limits eligibility only to those employees who have experienced a layoff.

HIPAA protects employees from discrimination based on health factors and makes it easier for workers with preexisting conditions to change jobs without losing health coverage. Under HIPAA, an employer may not exclude a new employee from group health insurance coverage due to a preexisting condition if the last treatment for that condition occurred more than six months before the start of coverage. HIPAA also sets guidelines for reducing or eliminating the exclusion period for a preexisting condition, based upon past health insurance coverage.

During the workshop, U.S. DOL representatives will review COBRA and HIPAA notification procedures for employers and stress the importance of following these notification procedures; employers who do not properly notify current and former employees of their rights may be subject to fines by both the U.S. DOL and the IRS, and may leave themselves vulnerable to worker-generated lawsuits. U.S. DOL representatives will also discuss changes to HIPAA brought about by the Affordable Care Act of 2010, including the phase-outs of preexisting condition exclusions and annual and lifetime coverage limits.

The Business Workforce Center-sponsored workshop is free to employers. Seats, available on a first-come, first-serve basis, may be reserved by calling 1-888-616-JOBS (5627). Employer sign-in for the workshop begins a half hour before the beginning of each session.

The RI Department of Labor and Training Business Workforce Center offers free walk-in services for employers in the areas of job matching, recruitment, training and transition assistance. The Business Workforce Center is one component of the department's comprehensive workforce development services, which include netWORKri one-stop career centers, the EmployRI.org online career center, the YouthWORKS411 workforce system, Veterans' services, and the State Workforce Investment Office.


ABOUT DLT: The RI Department of Labor and Training offers employment services, educational services and economic opportunity to both individuals and employers. DLT protects Rhode Island’s workforce by enforcing labor laws, prevailing wage rates and workplace health and safety standards. The department also provides temporary income support to unemployed and temporarily disabled workers. For more information on the programs and services available to all Rhode Islanders, please call the RI Department of Labor and Training at (401) 462-8000 or visit the web site at www.dlt.ri.gov