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District Court Judge in Texas Strikes Down the ACA – But Law Remains in Effect for Now

On Friday, December 14, a federal judge in Texas issued a partial ruling that strikes down the entire Affordable Care Act (ACA) as unconstitutional. The White House has stated that the law will remain in place, however, pending the appeal process. The case, Texas v. U.S., will be appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans, and then likely to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The plaintiffs in Texas (a coalition of twenty states) argue that since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act zeroed out the individual mandate penalty, it can no longer be considered a tax. Accordingly, because the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ACA in 2012 by saying the individual mandate was a legitimate use of Congress’s taxing power, eliminating the tax penalty imposed by the mandate renders the individual mandate unconstitutional. Further, the individual mandate is not severable from the ACA in its entirety. Thus, the ACA should be found unconstitutional and struck down.

The court in Texas agreed, finding that the individual mandate can no longer be fairly read as an exercise of Congress’s Tax Power and is still impermissible under the Interstate Commerce Clause—meaning it is unconstitutional. Also, the court found the individual mandate is essential to and inseverable from the remainder of the ACA, which would include not only the patient protections (no annual limits, coverage of pre-existing conditions) but the premium tax credits, Medicaid expansion, and of course the employer mandate and ACA reporting.

Several states such as Massachusetts, New York and California have since intervened to defend the law. They argue that, if Congress wanted to repeal the law it would have done so. The Congressional record makes it clear Congress was voting only […]

By |December 18th, 2018|Compliance, Employee Communications, Health Care Reform, Legislation, Wellness|Comments Off on District Court Judge in Texas Strikes Down the ACA – But Law Remains in Effect for Now

IRS Extends Deadline for Furnishing Form 1095, Extends Good-Faith Transition Relief

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has released Notice 2018-94, extending the deadline for furnishing 2018 Forms 1095-B and 1095-C to individuals from January 31, 2019 to March 4, 2019, as well as penalty relief for good-faith reporting errors.

The due date for filing the forms with the IRS was not extended and remains February 28, 2019 (April 1, 2019 if filed electronically). Despite the repeal of the “individual mandate” beginning in 2019 as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the ACA’s information reporting requirements remain in effect, as the IRS uses the reporting to administer the employer mandate and premium tax credit program. The IRS is studying whether and how the reporting requirements under section 6055 (relating to insurance companies and self-insured plans) should change, if at all, for future years.

The instructions to Forms 1094-C and 1095-C allow employers to request a 30-day extension to furnish statements to individuals by sending a letter to the IRS with certain information, including the reason for delay.   However, because the Notice’s extension of time to furnish the forms is as generous as the 30-day extension contained in the instructions, the IRS will not formally respond to requests for an extension of time to furnish 2018 Forms 1095-B or 1095-C to individuals.

Employers may still obtain an automatic 30-day extension for filing with the IRS by filing Form 8809 on or before the forms’ due date. An additional 30-day extension is available under certain hardship conditions. The Notice encourages employers who cannot meet the extended due dates to furnish and file as soon as possible and advises that the IRS will take such furnishing and filing into consideration when determining whether to abate penalties […]

By |December 3rd, 2018|Health Care Reform, Human Resources, Legislation, Private Health Care Exchange|Comments Off on IRS Extends Deadline for Furnishing Form 1095, Extends Good-Faith Transition Relief

Medical Loss Ratio Rebates

Medical Loss Ratio Rebates Under the Affordable Care Act

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) has provided guidance on the Affordable Care Act’s (“ACA’s”) medical loss ratio (“MLR”) rule, which requires health insurers to spend a certain percentage of premium dollars on claims or activities that improve health care quality or provide a rebate to policyholders.  HHS has released amended and final regulations (the “Regulations”), which govern the distribution of rebates by issuers in group markets.  At the same time, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) issued Technical Release 2011-04 (“TR 2011-04”), which clarifies how rebates will be treated under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”).

Medical Loss Ratio Rule

The MLR rule requires health insurance companies in the group or individual market to provide an annual rebate to enrollees if the insurer’s “medical loss ratio” falls below a certain minimum level—generally, 85 percent in the large group market and 80 percent in the small group or individual market.  For these purposes, the numerator of the MLR equals the insurer’s incurred claims and expenditures for activities that improve health care quality, and the denominator equals the insurer’s premium revenue minus federal and state taxes and licensing and regulatory fees.

Defining Group Size

For purposes of the MLR rule, the Affordable Care Act defines “small” and “large” group markets by reference to insurance coverage sold to small employers or large employers. The Affordable Care Act defines a small employer as one that employs 1-100 employees and a large employer as one that employs 101 or more employees. However, states are permitted to limit the definition of a small employer to one that employs 1-50 employees.

Rebates under ERISA

TR 2011-04 clarifies that insurers must provide any […]

By |October 6th, 2018|Health Care Reform, Medical, U.S. Department of Labor|Comments Off on Medical Loss Ratio Rebates

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