This is the Medical category of the Broad REach Benefits blog. At Broad Reach Benefits, we focus on employers that have between 30 and 500 benefit eligible employees. We’re employee benefit specialists, not a big box brokerage firm or payroll company with a sales force peddling policies.

Final Rule Released on Individual Coverage and Excepted Benefit HRAs

On June 13, 2019 the Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Treasury Department (the “Departments”) released the final rule concerning health reimbursement arrangements (HRA) for individual market coverage and excepted health benefits. The rule, based on an executive order from President Trump in 2017, is intended to increase choice in plan options, which could lead to greater flexibility in choice and provide more affordable healthcare. The final rule impacts many different entities and individuals, including employers, health plan issuers, employees, plan sponsors, and those who purchase individual health plans. This rule is effective for plan years starting January 1, 2020. Background An HRA is an account-based health plan that allows employers to reimburse employees for medical care expenses. It is funded solely by employer contributions. Amounts reimbursable under an HRA are typically limited to a certain amount during a certain period (for example, $500 for expenses incurred during a calendar year). Under prior IRS rules issued as part of Affordable Care Act (ACA) implementation, HRAs offerings were limited to an extent. Under those rules, an employer may offer an HRA to employees only if the HRA is “integrated” with a qualifying group health plan. Under the new final rule, some of the restrictions have been eliminated, and the Departments have determined that other types HRAs can be integrated with individual market coverage and Medicare in a way that meets statutory requirements. Notably, under the final rule, an employer of any size could offer an Individual Coverage HRA that can be used to pay for Medicare (e.g., Parts B and D) and Medicare Supplement premiums, as well as other medical care expenses, without violating the Medicare Secondary Payer rules. […]

By |June 17th, 2019|Employee Benefits, Health Care Reform, Human Resources, Legislation, Medical|Comments Off on Final Rule Released on Individual Coverage and Excepted Benefit HRAs

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

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

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

New Jersey Enacts State Individual Mandate and Reinsurance Program

On May 30, 2018, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed two bills into law that are designed to stabilize and reduce health insurance premiums in the individual market.

These new laws are among the first state laws passed in response to changes made to the federal ACA. New Jersey is only the second state to enact its own health insurance individual mandate. Individuals in New Jersey should ensure that they are in compliance with the state individual mandate beginning in 2019.

State Individual Mandate

Effective beginning in 2019, the New Jersey Health Insurance Market Preservation Act imposes a state individual mandate that largely mirrors the ACA’s federal individual mandate requirement. The ACA’s individual mandate penalty has been effectively eliminated beginning in 2019.

New Jersey’s individual mandate requires most individuals in the state (and their family members) to be covered under minimum essential coverage for each month of the year, beginning in 2019. Individuals that don’t obtain acceptable health insurance coverage will be penalized.

Notably, the new law provides that the state individual mandate penalty will not be enforced for any tax year in which the ACA’s federal premium tax credits become unavailable.

Minimum Essential Coverage

For purposes of the New Jersey individual mandate, the term “minimum essential coverage” (MEC) has the same definition as under the ACA.

MEC […]

By |June 4th, 2018|Employee Benefits, Health Care Reform, Legislation, Medical|Comments Off on New Jersey Enacts State Individual Mandate and Reinsurance Program

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