Compliance

President Trump Issues Executive Order Encouraging Transparency in Pricing and Expanding Consumer-Directed Arrangements

On June 24, 2019, President Trump issued an Executive Order intending to develop price and quality transparency initiatives to ensure that healthcare patients can make well-informed decisions about their care. This is part of the consumer-driven healthcare initiative, which has been a focus of government and patient groups alike to have more transparency regarding the cost of services from hospitals and other healthcare providers, as well as expanding the ability to use certain pre-tax health spending arrangements. The goal is to help consumers to make better informed decisions regarding their healthcare. It is also intended to address so-called “surprise billing,” which can expose patients to unexpected medical bills. The Executive Order directs federal agencies to promulgate regulations and issue guidance to meet these objectives.

Transparency in Prices

The Executive Order instructs the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to promulgate regulations requiring hospitals to publicly post standard price information for services rendered in an easy-to-read format. The regulations should mandate the disclosure of standard charge information for services, supplies, and any other fees that apply to the hospital and its employees. HHS may also use the Executive Order to create regulations for other providers and self-funded health plans to also post standard costs for services and supplies. The objective of such disclosure is to allow patients to make more informed decisions about the cost of services and goods if the patient goes to a certain healthcare facility. If a patient understands the cost and quality of services, they could avoid unexpected costs. It could also facilitate further analysis regarding the cost differentials between facilities and providers. The standard costs posted must be regularly updated, in order to provide accurate, […]

By |July 2nd, 2019|Compliance, Employee Benefits, Employee Communications, Human Resources, Legislation, Medical|Comments Off on President Trump Issues Executive Order Encouraging Transparency in Pricing and Expanding Consumer-Directed Arrangements

HHS Proposes Revisions to ACA Section 1557 Regulations

At the end of May, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a proposed rule to revise regulations previously released under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The HHS goal with the proposed rule is to remove what the department views as redundancies and inconsistencies with other laws, as well as reduce confusion.

Changes in Compliance with Section 1557 Proposed Rule 

ACA Section 1557 applies to “covered entities” – i.e., health programs or activities that receive “federal funding” from HHS (except Medicare Part B payments), including state and federal Marketplaces. Examples include hospitals, health clinics, community health centers, group health plans, health insurance issuers, physician’s practices, nursing facilities, etc.

Under current rules, “covered entities” include employers with respect to their own employee health benefit programs if the employer is principally engaged in providing or administering health programs or activities (i.e., hospitals, physician practices, etc.), or the employer receives federal funds to fund the employer’s health benefit program. Group health plans themselves are subject to the rule if they receive federal funds from HHS (e.g., Medicare Part D Subsidies, Medicare Advantage). In other words, employers who aren’t principally engaged in providing health care or health coverage generally aren’t subject to these rules directly unless they sponsor an employee health benefit program that receives federal funding through HHS, such as a retiree medical plan that participates in the Medicare Part D retiree drug subsidy program.

The most prominent proposed change is to the provision in Section 1557 which provides protections against discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, and disability in certain health programs or activities. HHS’ proposed regulation would revise the definition of discrimination “on the basis of sex” that […]

By |June 11th, 2019|Compliance, Human Resources, Medical|Comments Off on HHS Proposes Revisions to ACA Section 1557 Regulations

Treating Employees Differently- Health Plan Rules

Do you want to be selective and treat employees differently for purposes of group health plan benefits?  For example, some employers may consider implementing the following plan designs:

  • A health plan “carve-out” that insures only select groups of employees (for example, a management carve-out);
  • Different levels of benefits for groups of employees; or
  • Employer contribution rates vary based on employee group.

In general, employers may treat employees differently, as long as they are not violating federal rules that prohibit discrimination in favor of highly compensated employees. These rules currently apply to self-insured health plans and arrangements that allow employees to pay their premiums on a pre-tax basis. The nondiscrimination requirements for fully insured health plans have been delayed indefinitely.

Employers should also confirm that any health plan rules do not violate other federal laws that prohibit discrimination. In addition, employers with insured plans should confirm that carve-out designs comply with any minimum participation rules imposed by the carrier.

Health Plan Design – General Rules

Nondiscrimination Tests

In general, a health plan will not have problems passing any applicable nondiscrimination test when the employer treats all of its employees the same for purposes of health plan coverage (for example, all employees are eligible for the health plan, and the plan’s eligibility rules and benefits are the same for all employees). However, treating employees differently may make it more difficult for a health plan to pass the applicable nondiscrimination tests. Examples of plan designs that may cause problems with nondiscrimination testing include:

  • Only certain groups of employees are eligible to participate in the health plan (for example, only salaried or management employees);
  • The health plan has different employment requirements for plan eligibility (for example, waiting periods and entry dates) for different employee groups;
  • Plan benefits or contribution rates vary based on employment classification, years of service or amount of compensation (for example, management employees pay a lower premium or receive additional benefits); or
  • The employer maintains separate health plans for different groups of employees.

Before implementing one or more of these plan designs, employers should confirm that the arrangement will comply with any applicable rules that prohibit discrimination in favor of highly compensated employees. Under currently applicable law, if a health plan is discriminatory, highly compensated employees will lose certain tax benefits under the plan. […]

By |April 19th, 2019|Compliance, Employee Benefits, Medical, Section 125, Uncategorized|Comments Off on Treating Employees Differently- Health Plan Rules

Association Health Plan Rules Struck Down by Federal Court

Overview

A federal judge ruled on March 28, 2019 that parts of the Trump administration’s 2018 final rule on association health plans (AHPs) were invalid. The court directed the Department of Labor (DOL) to reconsider how the remaining provisions of the final rule are affected.

In its ruling, the court stated that the final rule was an “end-run” around the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and that the DOL exceeded its authority under ERISA.

The court specifically struck down two parts of the rule:

  • The provision defining “employer” to include associations of disparate employers; and
  • The provision expanding membership in these associations to include working owners without employees

Action Steps

Employers and business owners without employees that have joined an AHP, or are considering doing so, should review how their plans may be affected by the court’s ruling. These employers can also monitor developments from the DOL on any changes made to the rule. […]

By |April 1st, 2019|Compliance, Employee Benefits, Legislation, Medical|Comments Off on Association Health Plan Rules Struck Down by Federal Court

Get a Nasty Letter 226-J from the IRS? Enforcement for 2016 Pay Or Play Rules Begins

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) began issuing enforcement letters related to employers’ compliance with the employer shared responsibility rules under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for the 2016 calendar year. These letters, known as Letter 226-J, inform employers of their potential liability for an employer shared responsibility penalty, if any, for 2016.

The IRS only sends these letters to employers that are subject to the employer shared responsibility rules, known as applicable large employers (ALEs). The determination of whether an ALE may be liable for a penalty, and the amount of the proposed penalty in Letter 226-J, are based on information from Forms 1094-C and 1095-C filed by the ALE and the individual income tax returns filed by the ALE’s employees.

What You Need To Do

Employers that receive a Letter 226-J must respond to the letter, either agreeing with the proposed penalty or disagreeing with part or all of the proposed amount. The IRS provides an employer response form, Form 14764, for employers to use for this purpose. The IRS maintains a website on understanding Letter 226-J for employers who receive an enforcement letter.

Background

The ACA’s employer shared responsibility rules require ALEs to offer affordable, minimum value health coverage to their full-time employees or pay a penalty. These rules, also known as the “employer mandate” or “pay or play” rules, only apply to ALEs, which are employers with, on average, at least 50 full-time employees, including full-time equivalent employees, during the preceding calendar year.

The employer shared responsibility rules took effect for most ALEs beginning on Jan. 1, 2015. However, some ALEs may have had additional time to comply with these requirements. An ALE may be subject to a penalty only if one or more […]

By |December 31st, 2018|Compliance, Employee Benefits, Health Care Reform|Comments Off on Get a Nasty Letter 226-J from the IRS? Enforcement for 2016 Pay Or Play Rules Begins

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

DOL Finalizes Rule to Expand Association Health Plans

On June 19, 2018, the Department of Labor (DOL) released a final rule that gives small businesses more freedom to join together as a single group to purchase health insurance in the large group market or to self-insure. These benefit arrangements are called association health plans (AHPs).

By forming AHPs, small employers can avoid certain Affordable Care Act (ACA) reforms that apply to the small group market. According to the DOL, this will provide small employers with more affordable health insurance options.

However, in exchange for lower premiums, AHPs may cover fewer benefits. Most AHPs will not be subject to the ACA’s essential health benefits (EHB) reform, which requires small group plans to cover a core set of items and services, such as mental health care and maternity and newborn care.

ACTION STEPS

Small employers may want to consider banding together to form an AHP as a more affordable health insurance option. Employers should carefully review the AHP’s benefit design to make sure it is appropriate for their workforce. Because AHPs are regulated at the federal and state level, the availability of these plans will also depend on a state’s regulatory approach.

Background

On Oct. 12, 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that directed the DOL to consider issuing regulations that would permit more employers to form AHPs as a way to expand access to more affordable health coverage. The DOL was specifically instructed to consider expanding the conditions that must be satisfied to form an AHP that is treated as a single plan under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

Currently, the criteria that must be satisfied for a group of employers to sponsor a single ERISA plan are very narrow. As a result, most […]

By |June 21st, 2018|Compliance, Employee Benefits, Medical, U.S. Department of Labor|Comments Off on DOL Finalizes Rule to Expand Association Health Plans

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