New FMLA Regulations Expand Military Caregivers’ Coverage
The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (“FMLA”), which applies to employer groups with 50 or more employees and all public agencies, has an indirect impact on health insurers and group health plans. FMLA requires employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to its employees to care for a loved one with a serious health condition, among other reasons.
In 2008, Congress enacted legislation, HR4986, to include qualified exigency leave and military caregiver leave to employees with family members on active duty in the Armed Forces (including the National Guard or Reserves).
Last year, Congress enacted new legislation, HR2647, which became effective on October 28, 2009. It applies to all FMLA leave requests submitted on or after that date. Specifically, HR2647 does the following:
- Expands the exigency leave entitlement to include family members of the regular Armed forces, who were not entitled to exigency leave under the prior law;
- Expands the military caregiver leave entitlement to include veterans, who were not covered under prior law; and
- Expands the military caregiver leave entitlement to include leave to care for a service member or veteran whose preexisting serious injury or illness was aggravated by active duty service.
No changes have been made to any of FMLA’s health benefit provisions, including the requirements regarding continuation of health insurance benefits while on leave and reinstatement of coverage upon returning from leave. However, the expanded rights established in HR4968 and amended by HR2647 may result in more employees being eligible for FMLA leave. For that reason, these laws may indirectly affect the administration of group health plans.
Public information on FMLA and HR4986 legislation is available online at http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/finalrule.htm. Employer groups requesting more compliance information on FMLA should be referred to their own legal counsel.