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DOL Releases Final Rule Expanding Association Health Plans

DOL Releases Final Rule Expanding Association Health Plans

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has issued a final rule expanding the opportunity of unrelated employers of all sizes (but particularly small employers) to offer employment-based health insurance through Association Health Plans (AHPs). Significantly, the final rule applies “large group” coverage rules under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to qualifying AHPs.

The final rule confirms that AHPs may be formed by employers in the same trade, industry, line of businesses, or profession. They may also be formed based on a geographic test such as a common state, city, county or same metropolitan area (even if the metropolitan area includes more than one State).

The final rule contains staggered effective dates:

  • All associations (new or existing) may establish a fully insured AHP beginning September 1, 2018.
  • Existing associations that sponsored an AHP on or before the date the final rule was published may establish a self-insured AHP beginning January 1, 2019.
  • All other associations (new or existing) may establish a self-insured AHP beginning April 1, 2019.

We will expand upon these issues in future alerts. In the meantime, highlights of the final rule are as follows:

  • Existing bona fide associations may continue to rely on prior DOL guidance.   The final rule provides an additional mechanism for AHPs to sponsor a single ERISA-covered group health plan.
  • AHPs may self-insure under the final rule; however, the DOL anticipates that many AHPs will be subject to state benefit mandates. States retain the authority to adopt minimum benefit standards, including standards similar to those applicable to individual and small group insurance policies under the ACA, for all AHPs.
  • The primary purpose of the association may be to offer health coverage to its members; […]
By |June 21st, 2018|Employee Benefits, Health Care Reform, Human Resources, Medical|Comments Off on DOL Releases Final Rule Expanding Association Health Plans

IRS Issues Affordability Percentage Adjustment for 2019

In Rev. Proc. 2018-34, the IRS released the inflation adjusted amounts for 2019 relevant to determining whether employer-sponsored coverage is “affordable” for purposes of the Affordable Care Act’s (“ACA’s”) employer shared responsibility provisions and premium tax credit program. As shown in the table below, for plan years beginning in 2019, the affordability percentage is 9.86% of an employee’s household income or applicable safe harbor.

Code Section 4980H(a) 4980H(b) 36B(b)(3)(A)(i)
Description Potential annual penalty for failure to offer coverage to at least 95% (70% in 2015) of full-time employees (calculated per full-time employee, minus 30 (80 in 2015))[1] Potential annual penalty if coverage is offered but is not affordable or does not provide minimum value (calculated per full-time employee who receives a subsidy)[2] Premium credits and affordability safe harbors

Section 4980H penalties may be triggered by a full-time employee receiving a PTC

2019 $2,500* $3,750* 9.86%
2018 $2,320 $3,480 9.56%
2017 $2,260 $3,390 9.69%
2016 $2,160 $3,240 9.66%
2015 $2,080 $3,120 9.56%
2014** $2,000 $3,000 9.50%

* Estimated based on premium adjustment percentage in the 2019 Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters

**No employer shared responsibility penalties were assessed for 2014.

 

Under the ACA, applicable large employers (ALEs) – generally those with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees on average in the prior calendar year – must offer affordable health insurance to full-time employees to avoid an employer shared responsibility payment. Coverage is “affordable” if the employee’s required contribution for self-only coverage under the employer’s lowest-cost minimum value plan does not exceed 9.5% (as indexed) of the employee’s household income for the year. In lieu of household income, employers may rely on one or more of the following safe harbor alternatives when […]

By |June 7th, 2018|Employee Benefits, Employee Communications, Health Care Reform|Comments Off on IRS Issues Affordability Percentage Adjustment for 2019

IRS Releases 2019 HSA Contribution Limits and HDHP Deductible and Out-of-Pocket Limits

In Rev. Proc. 2018-30, the IRS released the inflation adjusted amounts for 2019 relevant to HSAs and high deductible health plans (HDHPs).  The table below summarizes those adjustments and other applicable limits.

  2019 2018 Change
Annual HSA Contribution Limit

(employer and employee)

Self-only: $3,500 Family: $7,000 Self-only: $3,450 Family: $6,900* Self-only: +$50 Family: +$100
HSA catch-up contributions

(age 55 or older)

$1,000 $1,000 No change
Minimum Annual HDHP Deductible Self-only: $1,350 Family: $2,700 Self-only: $1,350 Family: $2,700 No change
Maximum Out-of-Pocket for HDHP

(deductibles, co-payment & other amounts except premiums)

Self-only: $6,750 Family: $13,500 Self-only: $6,650 Family: $13,300 Self-only: +$100 Family: +$200

* After reducing the cap $50 in Rev. Proc. 2018-18in March 2018 due to changes made by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the IRS granted relief in Rev. Proc. 2018-27, restoring the limit back to the original 2018 level. We do not anticipate that the 2019 HSA annual family contribution limit will change as it did for this year.

 

Out-of-Pocket Limits Applicable to Non-Grandfathered Plans

The ACA’s out-of-pocket limits for in-network essential health benefits have also beenannouncedand have increased for 2019.

 

  2019 2018 Change
ACA Maximum Out-of-Pocket Self-only: $7,900

Family: $15,800

Self-only: $7,350

Family: $14,700

Self-only: +$550

Family: +$1,100

 

Note that all non-grandfathered group health plans must contain an embedded individual out-of-pocket limit within family coverage, if the family out-of-pocket limit is above $7,900 (2019 plan years) or $7,350 (2018 plan years).  Exceptions to the ACA’s out-of-pocket limit rule are available for certain small group plans eligible for transition relief (referred to as “Grandmothered” plans).  A one-year extension of transition reliefwas recently announced extending the transition relief to policy years beginning on or before October 1, 2019, provided that all policies […]

By |May 22nd, 2018|Employee Benefits, Human Resources, Legislation|Comments Off on IRS Releases 2019 HSA Contribution Limits and HDHP Deductible and Out-of-Pocket Limits

Agencies Issue Guidance on Mental Health Parity Issues, Signal Enhanced Enforcement

On April 23, 2018, the Departments of Labor, Treasury, and Health and Human Services released several pieces of guidance on issues arising under the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA), including 2017 enforcement actions, guidance on mental health parity implementation, and an action plan for enhanced enforcement in 2018.

The guidance includes:

  • Proposed FAQs (Part 39) regarding non-quantitative treatment limitations (e.g., non-numerical limits on benefits, such as preauthorization requirements) and plan disclosure issues;
  • An updated draft model disclosure form participants may use to request information from employer-sponsored health plans;
  • A self-compliance tool for group health plans, plan sponsors, insurance carriers, State regulators and other parties to evaluate MHPAEA compliance by a group health plan or insurance carrier; and
  • A 2018 DOL report to Congress titled Pathway to Full Parity.

Highlights of the April 2018 guidance

2017 MHPAEA Enforcement Actions

The DOL actively enforces MHPAEA during audits of employer-sponsored group health plans. These cases may stem from participant complaints where the facts suggest the problems are systemic and adversely impact other participants. Penalties for parity violations are limited to equitable relief; if violations are found by a DOL investigator, the investigator requires the plan to remove any offending plan provisions and pay any improperly denied benefits.

Each year the DOL publishes a fact sheet summarizing its enforcement activity during the prior year. Out of the 187 applicable investigations where MHPAEA applied, the DOL cited 92 violations for noncompliance with parity rules in 2017. The fact sheet provides 6 examples of MHPAEA enforcement actions and several are noteworthy because of their required corrections:

  • Restrictions on Residential Treatment Removed. Removal of impermissible annual day limit on residential treatment for substance use disorder […]
By |May 17th, 2018|Employee Benefits, Employee Communications, Human Resources, Legislation, Medical|Comments Off on Agencies Issue Guidance on Mental Health Parity Issues, Signal Enhanced Enforcement

IRS Adjusts 2018 HSA Contribution Limit – Again

The IRS has announced it is modifying the annual limitation on deductions for contributions to a health savings account (“HSA”) allowed for taxpayers with family coverage under a high deductible health plan (“HDHP”) for the 2018 calendar year. Under Rev. Proc. 2018-27, taxpayers will be allowed to treat $6,900 as the annual limitation, rather than the $6,850 limitation announced in Rev. Proc. 2018-18 earlier this year.

The HSA contribution limit for individuals with family HDHP plan coverage was originally issued as $6,900 last May in Rev. Proc. 2017-37. Earlier this year, the IRS announced a $50 reduction in the maximum deductible amount from $6,900 to $6,850 due to changes made by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Due to widespread complaints and comments from individual taxpayers, employers and other major stakeholders, the IRS has decided it is in the best interest of “sound and efficient” tax administration to allow individuals to treat the originally released $6,900 as the 2018 family limit. The IRS acknowledged that many individuals had already made the maximum HSA contribution for 2018 before the deduction limitation was lowered and many other individuals had made annual salary reduction elections for HSA contributions through employers’ cafeteria plans based on the higher limit. Additionally, the costs of modifying various systems to reflect the reduced maximum would be significantly greater than any tax benefit associated with an unreduced HSA contribution.

Alternatively, if an individual decides not to repay such a distribution it will not have to be included in gross income or subject to the additional 20% tax as long as the distribution is received by the individual’s 2018 tax return filing due date. This tax […]

By |May 1st, 2018|Employee Communications, Health Care Reform, Human Resources, Medical|Comments Off on IRS Adjusts 2018 HSA Contribution Limit – Again

EEOC’s Status Report in AARP v. EEOC Creates Uncertainty for Wellness Programs

In its March 30 status report to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in American Association for Retired Persons (AARP) v. EEOC, the EEOC stated that “it does not currently have plans to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking addressing incentives for participation in employee wellness programs by a particular date certain, but it also has not ruled out the possibility that it may issue such a Notice in the future.”

Employers continue to face uncertainty as to wellness program incentives subject to the ADA and GINA (i.e., those with medical exams or disability-related inquiries) as the EEOC awaits confirmation of Janet Dhillon as EEOC Chair and considers “a number of policy choices available.” In other words, the EEOC may wait until the Senate confirms outstanding nominations before re-engaging in the rulemaking process, leaving wellness programs open to challenge in 2019 by employees who feel that the incentives (or penalties) are so great that they render the program involuntary.

Background

As background, under the ADA, wellness programs that involve a disability-related inquiry or a medical examination must be “voluntary.” Similar requirements exist under GINA when there are requests for an employee’s family medical history (typically as part of a health risk assessment). For years, the EEOC had declined to provide specific guidance on the level of incentive that may be provided under the ADA, and their informal guidance suggested that any incentive could render a program “involuntary.” In 2016, after years of uncertainty on the issue, the agency released rules on wellness incentives that resemble, but do not mirror, the 30% limit established under U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) regulations applicable to health-contingent employer-sponsored wellness programs.   While the regulations appeared to be […]

By |April 17th, 2018|Employee Benefits, Employee Benefits Adviser, Employee Communications, Retired, U.S. Department of Labor|Comments Off on EEOC’s Status Report in AARP v. EEOC Creates Uncertainty for Wellness Programs

CMS Extends Transition Relief for Non-Compliant Plans through 2019

CMS Extends Transition Relief for Non-Compliant Plans through 2019

On April 9, 2018, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a one-year extension to the transition policy (originally announced November 14, 2013 and extended several times since) for individual and small group health plans that allows issuers to continue policies that do not meet ACA standards.  The transition policy has been extended to policy years beginning on or before October 1, 2019, provided that all policies end by December 31, 2019.  This means individuals and small businesses may be able to keep their non-ACA compliant coverage through the end of 2019, depending on the policy year.  Carriers may have the option to implement policy years that are shorter than 12 months or allow early renewals with a January 1, 2019 start date in order to take full advantage of the extension.

Background

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) includes key reforms that create new coverage standards for health insurance policies. For example, the ACA imposes modified community rating standards and requires individual and small group policies to cover a comprehensive set of benefits.

Millions of Americans received notices in late 2013 informing them that their health insurance plans were being canceled because they did not comply with the ACA’s reforms. Responding to pressure from consumers and Congress, on Nov. 14, 2013, President Obama announced a transition relief policy for 2014 for non-grandfathered coverage in the small group and individual health insurance markets. If permitted by their states, the transition policy gives health insurance issuers the option of renewing current policies for current enrollees without adopting all of the ACA’s market reforms.

Transition Relief Policy

Under the original transitional policy, health insurance coverage in the individual or small group market […]

By |April 12th, 2018|Compliance, Employee Benefits, Legislation, Medical|Comments Off on CMS Extends Transition Relief for Non-Compliant Plans through 2019

IRS Adjusts HSA Contribution Limit, Provides Transition Relief for Certain Non-Compliant HDHPs

In Rev. Proc. 2018-18, the IRS has released adjusted contribution limits for health savings accounts (HSAs) due to changes made by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA).     As shown below, the new HSA contribution limit for individuals with family high deductible health plan (HDHP) coverage is $6,850, a $50 reduction from the previously announced inflation-adjusted amount for 2018. Other HSA/HDHP figures remain unchanged.

2018 HDHP and HSA Limits Single / Family
Annual HSA Contribution Limit $3,450 / $6,850
Minimum Annual HDHP Deductible $1,350 / $2,700
Maximum Out-of-Pocket for HDHP $6,650 / $13,300

 

HSA Contributions in Excess of $6,850

While most employees with family HDHP coverage will not have contributed more than $6,850 through salary reductions at this point in 2018, employers will need to communicate the reduction to employees and reduce elections for employees who have elected $6,900 (and who will not be age 55 by the end of 2018). If an employer has already funded $6,900 on a non-taxable basis, they should include the additional $50 in the employee’s income and the employee may take a corrective distribution to avoid excess contribution penalties.

In most cases, the only task for employers will be to inform employees of the adjustment and, specifically, inform those who elected $6,900 (or $7,900 for employees who will be age 55+ at the end of 2018) that their election will be capped at $6,850 (as adjusted for the $1,000 catch-up).

Adoption Assistance Adjustment

The TCJA also reduces the amount that can be excluded from an employee’s gross income for the adoption of a child with special needs from $13,840 to $13,810. The phase-out also begins at a lower level than previously expected – $207,140 (reduced from $207,580) and is completely phased out for taxpayers with modified adjusted gross […]

By |March 7th, 2018|Employee Benefits, Health Care Reform, Human Resources, Medical|Comments Off on IRS Adjusts HSA Contribution Limit, Provides Transition Relief for Certain Non-Compliant HDHPs

Agencies Release Proposed Regulations on Short-Term Limited Duration Insurance

On February 20, 2018, the U.S. Departments of Labor, Treasury, and Health and Human Services (Agencies) released proposed regulations that expand the availability of short-term limited duration insurance (STLDI). STLDI is offered in the individual (non-group) insurance market and is generally used by individuals such as students or individuals between jobs. Therefore, the direct impact to employers is limited; however, there is some concern that this rule may disrupt the individual and small group markets and is seen by some as a further step by the Trump administration to erode Obama-era regulations.

The rule reverses prior regulations that limited the duration of STLDI coverage to less than 3 months after the original effective date of the contract. If finalized, the rule would extend the permitted duration of STLDI to a period of less than 12 months. The rule does not require issuers to guarantee renewability of STLDI policies; however, it does not prohibit individuals from re-applying for coverage for another 364 days (which would likely be subject to medical underwriting).

The proposed regulations are in furtherance of an October 2017 Executive Order instructing the Agencies to consider ways to promote healthcare choice and competition by, among other things, expanding the availability of STLDI. The regulations are open for public comment for 60 days.

Although STLDI is sold in the individual market, it is exempt from ACA’s insurance mandates, which typically makes it more affordable than the ACA-compliant plans that are required to offer coverage in ten broad categories of essential health benefits and contain other consumer protections. STLDI, on the other hand, is not required to cover essential benefits and may contain preexisting condition exclusions and annual and lifetime limits.

There is concern that expansion of STLDI […]

By |March 6th, 2018|Disability, Employee Benefits, Employee Communications, Medical, Short Term Disability|Comments Off on Agencies Release Proposed Regulations on Short-Term Limited Duration Insurance

DOL Releases Proposed Rule Expanding Association Health Plans

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a proposed rule to expand the opportunity of unrelated employers of all sizes (but particularly small employers) to offer employment-based health insurance through Association Health Plans (AHPs). This rulemaking follows President Trump’s October 12, 2017 Executive Order 13813, “Promoting Healthcare Choice and Competition Across the United States,” which stated the Administration’s intention to prioritize the expansion of access to AHPs.

Overview

If adopted, the proposed rule would expand the definition of “employer” within the meaning of ERISA section 3(5) to broaden the criteria for determining when unrelated employers, including sole proprietors and self-employed individuals, may join together in a “bona fide group or association of employers” that is treated as the “employer” sponsor of a single multiple employer “employee welfare benefit plan” and “group health plan.”

By treating the association itself as the “employer” sponsor of a single plan, the regulation would facilitate the adoption and administration of such arrangements. The proposed rule does not appear to limit the size of employers who may participate in an AHP.

Significantly, the proposed rule would apply “large group” coverage rules under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to qualifying AHPs. AHPs that buy insurance would not be subject to the insurance “look-through” doctrine (i.e., the concept that the size of each individual employer participating in the association determines whether that employer’s coverage is subject to the small group market or the large group market rules). Instead, because an AHP would constitute a single plan, whether the plan would be buying insurance as a large or small group plan would be determined by reference to the number of employees in the entire AHP. This would offer a key advantage to […]

By |January 25th, 2018|Compliance, Disability, Employee Benefits, Employee Communications, Health Care Reform, Human Resources, Medical|Comments Off on DOL Releases Proposed Rule Expanding Association Health Plans