Legally Required Employee Benefits & Mandatory Health Insurance Coverage

Monday, May 15, 2023 10:08 Posted by Admin
legally required employee benefits

Do you know what benefits employers are legally required to provide to their employees in the United States? If you’re an employer, are you confident you’re meeting all the legal requirements? According to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 56% of small firms and 99% of large firms offer health benefits to their employees. However, health insurance is just one piece of the puzzle. There are several other legally mandated benefits, and understanding these requirements is crucial for any business.

In this guide, we at Taylor Benefits Insurance Agency will walk you through all legally required health insurance employee benefits, their implications for your business, and how they contribute to the overall well-being of your workforce. We aim to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of these laws and regulations, so you can ensure your business is fully compliant and your employees are well taken care of.

Legal Requirements for Employee Health Coverage

In the United States, employers are required by law to provide certain mandatory employee benefits. These legal requirements can be complex, as they involve several different areas of legislation and regulation at the federal level. Here, we delve into the legal requirements for employee health coverage, including mandatory benefits such as health insurance, unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation insurance, and family and medical leave.

Health Insurance Coverage

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a key piece of federal legislation that has significantly impacted employer-provided health insurance coverage. Under the ACA, employers with 50 or more full-time employees are required to provide health insurance that meets minimum value and affordability standards. This health insurance coverage is one of the most essential employee benefits, helping to ensure that employees have access to necessary medical care.

Unemployment Insurance

Employers are also required to provide unemployment insurance, a mandatory employee benefit administered by the federal government in partnership with state governments. This benefit provides financial assistance to workers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own, helping them maintain some level of income while they search for new employment.

Workers Compensation Insurance

Another crucial employee benefit required by law is workers’ compensation insurance. If an employee suffers a work-related injury or illness, workers’ compensation insurance provides medical benefits and wage replacement. Each state has its own workers’ compensation program, and the federal government has a separate program for federal employees.

Family and Medical Leave

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that requires employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year for qualifying medical and family reasons. This includes the birth or adoption of a child, to care for a spouse or a parent who has a serious health condition, or a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform their job functions.

Social Security and Medicare

Employers also contribute to Social Security and Medicare, two significant programs administered by the federal government. These programs provide retirement, disability, and health insurance benefits to workers and their dependents.

Disability Insurance

In some states, employers are required to provide short-term disability insurance. This employee benefit provides partial wage replacement to employees who are unable to work due to a non-work-related illness or injury.

Retirement Savings Plan

Many employers offer retirement savings plans, such as 401(k) plans, as a part of their employee benefits package. While not required by federal law, offering a retirement plan can help attract and retain employees. Some states have started to implement mandatory retirement savings programs, requiring employers who do not offer retirement benefits to enroll their employees in a state-run program.

Understanding and complying with these legal requirements is crucial for employers. These mandatory benefits not only help to protect employees but also contribute to a healthier, more productive workforce.

Essential Health Benefits

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), healthcare coverage provided by employers is required by law to include a specific set of services, collectively known as essential health benefits. The ACA’s mandate for these benefits has significantly expanded the scope of employee benefits, ensuring that individuals have access to comprehensive and affordable health insurance.

Essential health benefits encompass ten categories of healthcare services:

1. Ambulatory Patient Services: These are outpatient services that one receives without being admitted to a hospital. They include preventive and wellness services, as well as chronic disease management.

2. Emergency Services: In case of severe or life-threatening conditions, the health insurance should cover services from the emergency department.

3. Hospitalization: This includes surgeries and overnight stays in a hospital.

4. Maternity and Newborn Care: Both pre- and post-natal care fall under this category, ensuring that mothers and newborns receive necessary healthcare.

5. Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Services: This includes behavioral health treatment such as psychotherapy and counseling, as well as substance use disorder treatment.

6. Prescription Drugs: Medications prescribed by a doctor are covered.

7. Rehabilitative and Habilitative Services and Devices: Services and devices to help individuals recover from an injury or disability, or gain, recover, or improve skills for daily living are covered.

8. Laboratory Services: Testing provided to help a doctor diagnose an injury, illness, or condition, or to monitor the effectiveness of a particular treatment, are covered.

9. Preventive and Wellness Services and Chronic Disease Management: Preventive care such as immunizations and screenings, as well as services to manage chronic diseases, are covered.

10. Pediatric Services: This includes dental and vision care for children.

Additional Benefits

While these essential health benefits form a significant part of the employee benefits package, employers are also required by law to provide additional benefits. For instance, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) mandates unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons. Similarly, the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) requires that employers contribute to Social Security and Medicare.

In some states, employers are also required to provide disability insurance, which offers income protection to employees who are unable to work due to a disability. Unemployment insurance, another mandatory employee benefit, offers financial support to employees who lose their jobs through no fault of their own.

In conclusion, the ACA has expanded the spectrum of employee benefits, ensuring that individuals have access to a broad range of essential health services. Complying with these legal requirements is vital for employers, as it contributes to the overall health and wellbeing of their workforce.

Preventive Services

Preventive services are a key component of the employee benefits that employers are required by law to provide under the Affordable Care Act. These services are intended to promote health and wellness among employees and any immediate family member by detecting potential health issues before they become severe.

Preventive services include routine immunizations, screenings for various diseases, and wellness visits. For instance, screenings for conditions like diabetes, certain types of cancer, and heart disease allow for early detection and treatment. Moreover, routine immunizations protect individuals and the wider community from various infectious diseases.

These services are crucial for maintaining a healthy workforce and can even lead to cost savings for both employers and employees by preventing costly health issues down the line.

Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Services

medical bills and tuition reimbursement

Mental health and substance use disorder services are another crucial part of the employee benefits mandated under the Affordable Care Act. Understanding the importance of mental health in the overall health and wellbeing of employees, the law requires employers to provide coverage for these services.

This coverage includes behavioral health treatment, such as psychotherapy and counseling, as well as substance use disorder treatment. These services are as essential as physical health services and can significantly contribute to the productivity and happiness of employees.

Unemployment Compensation Insurance

In addition to these benefits, employers are also legally required to participate in federally mandated benefits programs such as unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation.

Unemployment insurance, funded through federal and state taxes paid by employers, provides temporary income support to employees who lose their jobs through no fault of their own. This can help mitigate economic hardship resulting from job loss and maintain economic stability in the community.

Workers’ compensation, on the other hand, is a state-mandated insurance program that provides medical care, rehabilitation, and disability compensation for workplace injuries or illness. Businesses with one or more full-time employees are typically required to carry workers’ compensation insurance.

These mandatory benefits, including health insurance with coverage for preventive and mental health services, are critical for the wellbeing of employees and their families. Compliance with these requirements is not only a legal obligation for employers but also contributes to a healthier, more productive, and more satisfied workforce.

Employer Responsibilities under COBRA

The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) represents another crucial aspect of employee benefits. This federal law is designed to provide employees and their families with the option to extend their health coverage through the employer’s plan for a limited period under specific circumstances. These circumstances, known as “qualifying events,” include job loss, reduction in working hours, transition between jobs, death, divorce, and other life events.

Employers are required by law to offer COBRA continuation coverage to eligible employees and their families. They must notify their employees of their COBRA rights when the group health plan coverage initially commences and must again provide notice and offer COBRA coverage when a qualifying event occurs.

Responsibilities Under COBRA Wellness Programs

Employer responsibilities under COBRA also extend to maintaining and managing these employee benefit plans. This can include collecting premiums, providing coverage information to the plan administrator, and ensuring that the plan complies with all federal and state laws.

In addition to COBRA, employers are required to participate in other employee benefit programs such as unemployment compensation insurance and workers’ compensation. Businesses, typically those with one or more full-time employees, are generally required to carry unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation insurance. These programs provide financial support and medical coverage for workplace injuries and help mitigate economic hardships from job loss.

Understanding HIPAA’s Role in Employee Health Coverage

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) plays a critical role in employee health coverage. This federal law provides protections for employees’ health information and establishes standards for electronic health records to ensure privacy and security.

HIPAA impacts employee benefits in several ways. Firstly, it allows employees to switch jobs without losing their health coverage, regardless of pre-existing conditions. This provision promotes job mobility and ensures that individuals do not avoid seeking new employment opportunities due to fear of losing their health insurance.

HIPAA also requires employers to safeguard their employees’ protected health information (PHI). Employers must have measures in place to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of all PHI they receive, maintain, transmit, or create.

Employee Benefit Plan Requirement

In addition to the requirements of HIPAA, employers must adhere to other regulations related to employee benefits. For instance, employers must withhold social security tax and Medicare taxes from employee wages and contribute a matching amount. These social security taxes finance the Social Security program, which provides retirement income, disability benefits, and other benefits, and the Medicare program, which provides health insurance for individuals aged 65 or older and certain younger individuals with disabilities or illnesses.

Ensuring compliance with the requirements of COBRA, HIPAA, and other employee benefit regulations is critical for employers. It not only helps protect both the employee and the employer but also contributes to a more secure and efficient healthcare system.


Navigating the complex world of employee health insurance and legally required benefits can be a daunting task. But remember, understanding these obligations is not only about ensuring compliance and avoiding penalties. It’s about providing your employees with the care and support they need, which in turn contributes to a healthier, more productive workforce.

At Taylor Benefits Insurance Agency, we understand that every business is unique, and therefore, the needs of your employees are unique too. That’s why we’re here to help you navigate these complexities, ensuring you’re providing all the necessary benefits while also optimizing for your business’s specific needs.

Remember, this article only provides a general overview of the legally required health insurance employee benefits in the US. Laws can change, and state-specific regulations may also apply. So, if you have more questions or if you need detailed guidance tailored to your business, don’t hesitate to contact us at Taylor Benefits Insurance Agency. We’re always here to help you navigate the world of employee benefits and ensure your business continues to thrive.

Written by Todd Taylor

Todd Taylor

Todd Taylor oversees most of the marketing and client administration for the agency with help of an incredible team. Todd is a seasoned benefits insurance broker with over 35 years of industry experience. As the Founder and CEO of Taylor Benefits Insurance Agency, Inc., he provides strategic consultations and high-quality support to ensure his clients’ competitive position in the market.

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