Newslink: Health and Welfare

June 2014
Bay Area Commuter Benefit – Deadline to Establish Program is 9/30/14

A new California law requires employers in the San Francisco Bay area to offer commuter benefits. The deadline to comply of September 30, 2014 is quickly approaching. Below is a brief overview of the new requirements. TRI-AD is ready to assist you by implementing a new commuter program, or transitioning a current program that will help you comply with the new law and provide a valuable and easy-to-use benefit for your employees. Please contact us to discuss how we can help.

In 2012, Governor Brown signed a bill that expands the commuter benefit requirements to more cities in the Bay area. In order to comply, affected employers will have until September 30, 2014 to meet the new requirements. Companies in San Francisco have been offering commuter benefits due to the San Francisco commuter ordinance for a number of years, so these companies will be impacted if they have more than 50 employees in the jurisdiction of the Air District. Below is a brief recap of the requirements.

The Program would apply to employers with 50 or more full-time employees within the boundaries of the Air District (see "Where?" below).

Senate Bill 1339, signed by the Governor in fall, 2012 authorizes the Air District and Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) to jointly adopt a regional commuter benefit program. The Air District and MTC have developed a Bay Area Commuter Benefits Program to promote the use of alternative commuting modes such as transit, ridesharing, biking and walking. The Program requires employers with 50 or more full-time employees in the Bay Area to offer one of the following benefits:

  • Option 1 – Pretax Option: The employer allows employees to exclude their transit or vanpool costs from taxable income, to the maximum amount allowed by federal law;
  • Option 2 – Employer-Provided Subsidy: The employer provides a transit or vanpool subsidy to reduce or cover the employees' monthly transit or vanpool costs;
  • Option 3 – Employer-Provided Transit: The employer provides a free or low-cost bus, shuttle or vanpool service for employees (operated by or for the employer); or
  • Option 4 – Alternative Commuter Benefit: The employer proposes an alternative commuter benefit method that would be as effective as the other options in reducing single-occupant vehicle trips (and/or vehicle emissions).

The Air District jurisdiction consists of nine counties, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara, Solano and Sonoma. See the following map on the State's site:

Newly affected employers in these counties should comply with the law by having a program in place no later than September 30, 2014.

Employers who have more than 50 full-time employees (employees normally working at least 30 hours or more per week) within the Air District jurisdiction will need to make sure they meet the new requirements and register on the new website. If they were previously reporting to San Francisco, they no longer have to comply with the San Francisco Ordinance or report separately to the Dept. of Environment. Many employers already offer commuter benefits that are consistent with one (or more) of the four commuter benefit options for the Program. Some employers may need to modify or enhance their existing commuter benefits in order to achieve consistency with one (or more) of the four commuter benefit options. If your company is subject to the new law and already offers some type of commuter program, compare your benefit to the four options above to see if you will need to make any changes to your company's current commuter program. Once a company implements a program that complies with the new law, these employers will simply need to register on the State's new website.

For those employers who have less than 50 full-time employees in the Bay area but have 1 - 49 employees in San Francisco and more than 20 nationwide, the new state law will not apply but the local ordinances may still apply and the reporting is different. See the chart below. Even though companies do not have to comply with the new State law, if they received a "Notice to Register," they need to register on the Bay Area Commuter Benefits website and enter their company information and check that they have less than 50 full-time employees in the SF Bay area so that they are removed from the list. See the following website for employers that have less than 50 full-time employees in the San Francisco Bay Area:


State online websites for commuter benefits program:

Commuter Benefits Program Employer Guide:

Reporting requirements based on size of employer:

Infographic source:


HSA 2015 Limits Published

Annual contribution limits:

Out-of-pocket-costs limits:

Minimum deductibles required in HDHP:

Catch-up contribution (age 55 or older)

$3,350 $6,450 $1,300 $1,000

$6,650 $12,900 $2,600 $1,000


DOL Modifies COBRA & CHIPRA Model Notices

Updated Model COBRA Notices
The DOL recently updated their model COBRA general notice (initial notice) and their model COBRA election form to provide additional information about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Marketplaces. The initial notice was not changed significantly, however, the DOL has added a substantial amount of Marketplace information to the model COBRA election form. There is no specific due date for when the changes should be made to COBRA notices, however, more than likely most COBRA administrators, including TRI-AD, have updated their notices or are working diligently to do so now.

Updated Model CHIPRA Notices
The Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009 (CHIPRA) expanded both Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program ("CHIP") by allowing states to use Medicaid or CHIP funds to subsidize premiums paid for coverage under employer-sponsored plans. The DOL has updated their model CHIPRA notice. The opening paragraph of the notice now explains that individuals who are not eligible for Medicaid or CHIP may still be able to purchase coverage through a Marketplace.

Revised DOL Model Notices can be found at:


CMS Extends Marketplace Enrollment Deadline for COBRA Qualified Beneficiaries

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a one-time special enrollment period in the "federally facilitated" Marketplace for current COBRA qualified beneficiaries (QBs). Because CMS is concerned that COBRA beneficiaries may not have been aware of the Marketplaces as an alternative to COBRA, they are allowing current COBRA QBs extra time to enroll in a Marketplace qualified health plan (QHP). The deadline to enroll in the federally facilitated Marketplace is July 1, 2014.

As a background, if individuals enroll in COBRA, they can enroll in a Marketplace QHP during open enrollment but once the enrollment period is closed, they may not be able to drop COBRA and enroll in a Marketplace QHP during the year. Once the Marketplace open enrollment period ends, individuals on COBRA have to wait for the next Marketplace open enrollment period to enroll. Individuals can drop COBRA coverage and enroll in a Marketplace QHP if they exhaust their COBRA coverage period (18, 29 or 36 months) or experience another qualifying event, e.g. marriage or the birth of a dependent.

CMS is encouraging state facilitated Marketplaces to adopt a similar special enrollment period. States that operate their own Marketplaces must take action to allow this special enrollment. For example, California is allowing the special enrollment period for COBRA QBs in the Covered California Marketplace and the deadline is July 15, 2014. COBRA beneficiaries should check on or their state's Marketplace websites for more information. information about the special enrollment period:

Covered California information about the special enrollment period:


Not Legal or Tax Advice: Nothing in this newsletter should be construed as tax or legal advice. TRI-AD may not be considered your legal counsel or tax advisor. If you have questions about how anything discussed in this newsletter pertains to your personal or your organization's situation, we encourage you to discuss the issue with your attorney and/or tax advisor. TRI-AD's communications are not privileged under attorney-client privilege.