Recent Publications

Fort Worth Business Press Guest Article: The Hobby Lobby Decision: Supreme Court Decision Will Have an Impact, But What Will It Be?

On June 30, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Hobby Lobby and two other closely held for-profit corporations do not have to offer employees contraceptive coverage as required under the Affordable Care Act (also known as health care reform or Obamacare). >>

Dallas Business Journal Guest Article: Health Care Reform: The 12 Step Guide

By now, most employers are aware that they may be subject to a penalty beginning in 2014 with respect to their group health plans. Employers may also understand that their group health plans will need to be amended, additional disclosures will need to be made, and new taxes and fees will be taking effect. >>



Kirsten H. Garcia

Associate

Dallas


2323 Victory Avenue
Suite 700
Dallas, 75219
T +1 214.651.5171
F +1 214.200.0863

Áreas de Practica

Educación

  • J.D., University of Texas at Austin School of Law, 2006, with honors
  • B.S.F.S., Georgetown University, 2001, magna cum laude

Bar Admissions

  • Texas, 2006
Kirsten H. Garcia

Kirsten Garcia is an attorney in the Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation Practice Group. She has extensive experience providing practical advice on complying with PPACA’s penalty, reporting, disclosure, plan design, and fee requirements, as well as other compliance issues in the health and welfare area.

Kirsten is a contributor to Haynes and Boone's Practical Benefits Lawyer blog, which discusses issues and developments in the areas of employee benefits and executive compensation.

Selected Client Representations

  • Advising clients regarding operations, reporting and disclosure compliance with the federal and state laws governing employee benefit plans, including drafting required documentation and conducting employee training. Such federal laws include:

    • Internal Revenue Code
    • Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)
    • Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA)
    • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
    • Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA)
       
  • Assisting clients with correction of plan failures through the Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System issued by the Internal Revenue Service and the Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program issued by the United States Department of Labor.
  • Advising clients regarding attorney client privilege issues in employee benefits practice.
  • Advising clients with benefits issues arising in corporate transactions.
  • Assisting schools and non-federal governmental entities with the operations, reporting and disclosure compliance of their employee benefit plans.
  • Assisting clients with establishing and operating Voluntary Employees' Beneficiary Associations and associated employee welfare benefit plans.

Selected Professional, Community, and Business Activities

  • State Bar of Texas
  • Dallas Bar Association
    • Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation Committee Member, 2012-2014

Recent Publications and Speeches

  • "The Hobby Lobby Decision: Supreme Court Decision will have an impact, but what will it be?" guest author, Fort Worth Business Press, July 3, 2014.
  • "What You Need To Know: Final Employer Shared Responsibility Regulations," Dallas Bar Association Employee Benefits/Executive Compensation Section, June 4, 2014.
  • "Health and Welfare Year-End Checklist: Including DOMA, Wellness, HIPAA and PPACA," DFW ISCEBS, September 12, 2013.
  • "Affordable Care Act: Developing a Strategy to Pay or Play," panel presentation for CFOs, May 22, 2013.
  • "Healthcare Reform: Traps for the Unwary C-Suite," presentation to executives hosted by Haynes and Boone, LLP and Montgomery Coscia Greilich LLP, May 21, 2013.
  • "HIPAA Privacy and Security Omnibus Regulation Changes," panel presentation for the International Association of Privacy Professionals Dallas KnowledgeNet, April 24, 2013.
  • "Health Care Reform: Employer Shared Responsibility Proposed Regulations," Dallas Bar Association Employee Benefits/Executive Compensation Section, April 3, 2013.
  • "Healthcare Reform: Planning for the 2014 Employer Penalty," LeadSA at the North Chamber’s 11th Annual Employment Law Update, March 28, 2013.
  • "Healthcare Reform: Planning for the 2014 Employer Penalty," Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce 23rd Annual Employment Law Update, March 8, 2013.
  • "Health Care Reform: The 12 Step Guide," Dallas Business Journal Guest Article, February 22, 2013.
  • "Health and Welfare Legislative Update," Worldwide Employee Benefits Network, Dallas Chapter, March 27, 2012.
  • "Healthcare Reform: What We've Learned in the Past Year," Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce 22nd Annual Employment Law Update, March 16, 2012.
  • "Healthcare Reform: What Employers Need to Know," Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce 21st Annual Employment Law Update, March 23, 2011.
  • "Legislative Update: 2010 and What to Expect for 2011," ISCEBS Houston Chapter Program, December 9, 2010.
  • "Health Care Reform: What Employers Need to Know," Client-Sponsored Seminar, October 12, 2010.
  • "Healthcare Reform: Mistakes To Avoid And Action Items For Employer-Sponsored Group Health Plans," Co-authored with Nellie Strong, The Practical Tax Lawyer, ALI-ABA, August 2010.
  • "Health Care Reform: What Employers Need To Know," 14th Annual Houston Employment Law Update, June 24, 2010.
  • "Health Care Reform 101," Dallas Regional Chamber 22nd Annual Employment Law Update, April 29, 2010.
  • "The Latest Top Ten Benefit Plan Pitfalls," Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce 20th Annual Employment Law Update, March 26, 2010.
  • "Legislative Update: 2009 and What to Expect for 2010" ISCEBS Houston Chapter Program, December 10, 2009.
  • "HIPAA and Other Important Legal Compliance Updates," Broker-Sponsored Seminar, September 29, 2009.
  • "FYI: HCSO, HEART, HSA, GINA, ETC. - A Welfare Update," Dallas Bar Association Employee Benefits/Executive Compensation Section, September 2008.
  • "Wellness Programs and Disease Management," Worldwide Employee Benefits Network - Dallas Chapter, March 2008.
  • "The Scope of the Fiduciary Exception and the Attorney-Client Privilege," published in The Practical Lawyer, October 2007.
  • "Limits of the Fiduciary Exception to the Attorney-Client Privilege - With Particular Attention to the Special Concerns of In-House Counsel Who Advise Plan Fiduciaries," published in the New York University Review of Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation, August 2007.

Memberships

  • State Bar of Texas
  • Dallas Bar Association

Online Publications

02/22/2013 - Dallas Business Journal Guest Article: Health Care Reform: The 12 Step Guide
By now, most employers are aware that they may be subject to a penalty beginning in 2014 with respect to their group health plans. Employers may also understand that their group health plans will need to be amended, additional disclosures will need to be made, and new taxes and fees will be taking effect.

01/30/2013 - Employer Penalties Regarding Healthcare Coverage Apply in 2014
Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“PPACA”), an employer that employs an average of at least 50 full-time and full-time equivalent employees (a “Large Employer”) during 2013 may be subject to a penalty in 2014 if the Large Employer fails to offer “minimum essential coverage” to all but 5 percent (or, if greater, five) of its full-time employees (“No Coverage Penalty”).

08/01/2010 - Healthcare Reform: Mistakes To Avoid And Action Items For Employer-Sponsored Group Health Plans
This article highlights the top five mistakes an employer might make with respect to the The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, provides more detail regarding the requirements of the Act and lists action items for employers and their group health plans.

05/24/2010 - Health Reform: 2011 Design Considerations
Many employers are already planning revisions to their medical plans for 2011. However, under health reform, if “grandfathered plans” (generally plans with at least one participant on March 23, 2010) make changes in their benefit structure, they may lose “grandfathered” status. This article answers some of employers' most pressing questions.

05/06/2010 - Employers May Offer Coverage of Children up to Age 26 Now
Although healthcare reform does not require group health plans to provide coverage for children up to age 26, without regard to marital or student status, until the first plan year beginning on or after September 23, 2010, many insurers are now offering employers with fully insured plans the opportunity to continue the health coverage of children who would otherwise lose coverage this year. This alert describes how employers with self-insured plans also may provide such coverage to children up to age 26 before it is otherwise legally required.

04/08/2010 - Healthcare Reform: What You Need to Do Now and in the Future
This alert summarizes the major provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“PPACA”) and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (together with the PPACA, the “Act”) that will impact employers and their group health plans (“GHPs”).

03/19/2010 - New Model Notices Reflect Latest Extension of COBRA Subsidy
The Department of Labor issued new model notices that reflect the most recent extension of the COBRA subsidy, which covers involuntary terminations that occur through March 31, 2010. The updated model notices are summarized in this alert.

03/12/2010 - COBRA Subsidy Extension - Déjà vu, but much more…
Once again, Congress has extended the period during which an individual must be involuntarily terminated (as defined for purposes of the COBRA subsidy, an “Invol Term”) to be eligible for the COBRA subsidy. Invol Terms occurring through March 31, 2010 will be eligible for the COBRA subsidy. This change is effective retroactively, so that those persons with an Invol Term on March 1, 2010 are still eligible for the COBRA Subsidy.

02/04/2010 - Deadline for Compliance with the HITECH Act Approaching
The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (the “HITECH Act”) makes significant changes to the privacy and security requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, as amended (“HIPAA”). Group health plans and other covered entities must comply with the HITECH Act by February 17, 2010.

01/29/2010 - DOL Issues Final Safe Harbor Rules for Timely Deposits of Participant Contributions and Loan Repayments
The U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) issued final regulations, effective January 14, 2010, that (1) clarify that the contribution timing rules apply to plan loan repayments, and (2) provide a safe harbor for depositing participant contributions (including loan repayments) to employee benefit plans with fewer than 100 participants on the first day of the plan year.

01/28/2010 - IRS Issues 409A Document Correction Program: The Six Month Payment Delay for Key Employees (second in a series)
As described in an earlier alert, the IRS has announced a document correction program covering certain failures to comply with Section 409A of the Internal Revenue Code (“Section 409A”), which contains tax rules for nonqualified deferred compensation arrangements.

01/19/2010 - Model Notices and Additional Guidance Issued on COBRA Subsidy Extension
The Department of Labor recently issued model notices for employers to use under the COBRA subsidy extension, and the Internal Revenue Service issued additional guidance for an employer claiming on its federal employment tax return (Form 941) the credit for 2009 retroactive coverage arising from the subsidy extension for those individuals who had otherwise exhausted the subsidy period.

01/13/2010 - IRS Issues 409A Document Correction Program: Immediate Action May Be Needed
The IRS has issued a Notice that describes a document correction program covering certain failures to comply with Section 409A of the Internal Revenue Code (“409A”). 409A contains tax rules for nonqualified deferred compensation arrangements. While this IRS program offers employers welcome relief from inadvertent drafting mistakes and other failures to conform applicable documents to the requirements of 409A, it also raises some additional concerns.

12/29/2009 - COBRA Subsidy Extended - Prompt Action Required (Updated)
On December 19, 2009, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2010 (the “Act”) extended the COBRA continuation coverage subsidy, which originally was due to expire at the end of 2009. While the mechanics of the COBRA subsidy generally remain unchanged, the Act expands the coverage previously provided under the COBRA subsidy.

12/08/2009 - Year-End Changes Needed for Some 162(m) Performance-Based Compensation Plans
Publicly held corporations may need to adopt an amendment by December 31, 2009 for certain performance-based compensation plans and agreements, including incentive compensation and equity plans and executive employment agreements.

12/07/2009 - There's Still Time! Correct Code Section 409A Violations By December 31, 2009
Employers have until December 31, 2009 to take advantage of opportunities to avoid the 20% and other penalty taxes that otherwise would be imposed by Section 409A of the Internal Revenue Code. We recommend employers review all their plans and agreements that are subject to Section 409A, including nonqualified deferred compensation, severance, change of control plans and agreements, and employment agreements.

10/28/2009 - IRS Provides Guidance on Waiving 2009 Required Minimum Distributions
In Notice 2009-82, the IRS announced that plan sponsors must make decisions relating to the waiver of 2009 required minimum distributions (“RMDs”) for defined contribution plans, such as 401(k) plans, by November 30, 2009.

10/13/2009 - IRS Issues Final Regulations on Defined Benefit Plan Funding Requirements and Benefit Restrictions
Last week the IRS released final regulations covering most aspects of the minimum funding requirements and funding-based benefit restrictions imposed on single-employer defined benefit plans by the Pension Protection Act of 2006. These regulations generally apply for plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2010, but can be relied upon before that date. Some plan sponsors may need to take immediate action in light of the regulations.

09/18/2009 - New Health Plan Privacy Notice Requirements Under HITECH Act
The Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) recently issued an interim final rule (the “Rule”) under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (“HITECH”) Act explaining the notification requirements for breaches of protected health information that has not been encrypted or destroyed (“Unsecured PHI”). Employer-sponsored health plans should immediately review and revise their HIPAA privacy policies and procedures to ensure that they adequately address the Rule’s requirements for investigating and reporting breaches of Unsecured PHI. The new requirements are effective for breaches occurring on or after September 23, 2009.

08/14/2009 - Employers Should Be on the Lookout for Common Retirement Plan Errors
The Internal Revenue Service recently published a list of common recurring mistakes it sees in large case audits of qualified retirement plans and in submissions under its Voluntary Correction Program. This list provides employers with a useful checklist for reviewing the operations of their qualified retirement plans.

05/20/2009 - Deadline for Complying with Medicare Secondary Payer Reporting Rules Approaching
This alert outlines new reporting requirements under the Medicare Secondary Payer rules that apply to all liability insurance plans (including self-insurance), no-fault insurance plans, and workers' compensation plans, including non-subscribers to the Texas Workers' Compensation Act beginning on July 1, 2009.

04/16/2009 - Proceed with Caution - New COBRA Subsidy Notices Pose Risks to Employers
Employers are working frantically to comply with the new COBRA subsidy requirements of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (the “Act”). However, the rush to compliance poses significant dangers if employers rely on the guidance issued by the Internal Revenue Service and Department of Labor without careful review and use the Department of Labor sample notices without modification.

03/27/2009 - Significant Changes in the Health Data Privacy for Group Health Plans and their Business Associates
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (the “Act”) broadens the HIPAA privacy and security protections that apply to protected health information (“PHI”) and imposes new requirements on group health plans and their business associates. Under the Act, certain HIPAA privacy and security requirements now directly apply to business associates as if they were covered entities.

02/19/2009 - Stimulus Bill Expands COBRA Benefits
The “Stimulus Bill,” signed Tuesday February 17, 2009, lowered the cost of COBRA continuation coverage for employees whose employment was or is involuntarily terminated on or after September 1, 2008 and before January 1, 2010, and their eligible dependents (together referred to as “Assistance Eligible Individuals”). In addition, those Assistance Eligible Individuals who did not timely elect COBRA are given another opportunity to elect that coverage, although their total period of COBRA coverage generally is not extended.

09/16/2008 - Significant Changes Imposed In Pension Plan Valuation of Alternative Investments

10/23/2007 - IRS and Treasury Department Extend Section 409A Deadlines One More Year!

09/12/2007 - IRS Announces Limited Extension of Section 409A Compliance Deadline

04/11/2007 - 409A Final Regulations

12/22/2006 - President Bush Signs Bill Permitting One Time Rollovers to Health Savings Accounts

12/22/2006 - Diversification Notice and Pension Benefit Statement Guidance

12/22/2006 - IRS Issues Guidance on Reporting Section 409A Deferred Compensation