NAPEO White Paper Released: “PEO’s – Keeping Turnover Low and Survival High”

The National Association of Professional Employer Organizations (NAPEO) has released its second white paper entitled “Professional Employer Organizations: Keeping Turnover Low and Survival High.” MedCon’s sister company, Employee Resource Administration (ERA) – a Professional Employer Organization, has been serving clients of all sizes throughout the country with the significant issues addressed in the white paper.

 

Key findings highlight the lower employee turnover rate for small businesses in PEO arrangements, faster growth and significantly decreased failure rate.

 

As small businesses continue to struggle in a professional world of ever-changing compliance issues, MedCon and ERA strive to provide greater professional services tailored to meet specific needs of our clients. MedCon aims to provide provide custom employee benefit solutions specific to each client’s needs. ERA provides services to give relief from administrative functions that inhibit clients from doing what they do best – promoting, managing and expanding business. With 4 principals who have all spent their careers working in the insurance and administrative fields, the experience level provided to clients of all industries is unmatched.

 

If you have considered partnering with professional consultants, now is a crucial time to do so. With many changes imposed by the Affordable Care Act, small employers must have a resource to assist with various legislation and compliance matters. Instead of taking time away from the business you have built, consider partnering with the experienced team at MedCon and ERA to provide your professional solution.

 

 

The National Association of Professional Employer Organizations (NAPEO) is the largest trade association for professional employer organizations (PEOs) nationwide.  NAPEO advocates for the interests of its PEO members at all levels of government.

Employer Mandate Delay – How Will it Affect Your Group?

On July 9, 2013, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued Notice 2013-45 to provide formal guidance on the delay of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) large employer “pay or play” rules and related information reporting requirements. The provisions affected by the delay are:

  • § 4980H employer shared responsibility provisions;
  • § 6055 information reporting requirements for insurers, self-insuring employers and certain other providers of minimum essential coverage; and
  • § 6056 information reporting requirements for applicable large employers.

*For 2014, compliance with the information reporting rules is completely optional and the IRS will not assess penalties under the pay or play rules. Both the information reporting and the employer pay or play requirements will be fully effective for 2015.

One-year Implementation Delay

According to the IRS, the delay of the reporting requirements provides additional time for input from employers and other reporting entities in an effort to simplify these requirements, consistent with effective implementation of the ACA. This delay is also intended to provide employers, insurers and other providers of minimum essential coverage time to adapt their health coverage and reporting systems.

The delay of the employer mandate penalties was required because of issues related to the reporting requirements. Because the reporting rules were delayed, the Treasury believed it would be nearly impossible to determine which employers owed penalties under the shared responsibility provisions.

The pay or play regulations issued earlier this year left many unanswered questions for employers. The IRS highlighted several areas where it would be issuing more guidance. Presumably, the additional time will give the IRS and Treasury the opportunity to provide more comprehensive guidance on implementing these requirements.

Effect on Other ACA Provisions

The delay does not affect any other provision of the ACA, including individuals’ access to premium tax credits for coverage through an Exchange and the individual mandate.

Individuals will continue to be eligible for the premium tax credit to purchase coverage through an Exchange as long as they meet the eligibility requirements (for example, their household income is within a specified range and they are not eligible for other minimum essential coverage).

Click here for a chart illustrating the provisions that will and will not be affected by the employer mandate delay.

**This Legislative Brief is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel for legal advice.

HHS to Delay Part of Small Employer Exchanges

Beginning in 2014, individuals and small employers will be able to purchase health insurance through online competitive marketplaces, or Exchanges. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires each state that chooses to operate an Exchange to also establish a Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Exchange. The SHOP Exchange is intended to assist eligible small employers in providing health insurance for their employees.

HHS will establish and operate a federally-facilitated Exchange (FFE) in each state that does not establish its own Exchange. The FFE will include both individual market and SHOP components.

Small employers with up to 100 employees will be eligible to participate in the Exchanges. However, until 2016, states may limit participation in the SHOP Exchanges to businesses with up to 50 employees. Beginning in 2017, states may allow businesses with more than 100 employees to participate in the Exchanges.

On March 11, 2013, HHS issued a proposed rule that would amend some of the standards for SHOP Exchanges. Most notably, the proposed rule creates a transition policy regarding an employee’s choice of qualified health plans (QHPs) in the SHOP. The transition policy would delay implementation of the employee choice model as a requirement for all SHOPs for one year, until 2015.

FUNCTIONS OF THE SHOP EXCHANGE

On March 27, 2012, HHS issued a final rule on establishment of the Exchanges. This final rule describes the minimum functions of a SHOP. The final rule provides that a SHOP must allow employers the option to offer employees all QHPs at a level of coverage chosen by the employer—bronze, silver, gold or platinum. In addition, the final rule permits SHOPs to allow a qualified employer to choose one QHP for its employees.

In a separate final rule issued in March 2013, HHS provided that the federally-facilitated SHOP (FF-SHOP) would give employers the choice of offering only a single QHP, as employers customarily do today, in addition to the choice of offering all QHPs at a single level of coverage.

TRANSITION POLICY

In the proposed rule, HHS provides a transition policy for 2014 plan years that is intended to provide all SHOPs (both state SHOPs and the FF-SHOP) with additional time to prepare for the employee choice model.

Under the transition policy, for plan years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2014, and before Jan. 1, 2015, state SHOPs would not have to allow employers to offer their employees a choice of QHPs at a single level of coverage. However, a SHOP may decide to provide this option to employers for 2014 plan years.

In addition, for plan years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2014, and before Jan. 1, 2015, FF-SHOPs would not allow qualified employers to offer their employees a choice of QHPs at a single level of coverage. For 2014 plan years, the FF-SHOP would assist employers in choosing a single QHP to offer their qualified employees.

According to HHS, the transition policy would increase the stability of the small group market while providing small groups with the benefits of SHOP in 2014 (for example, choice among competing QHPs and access for qualifying small employers to the small business health insurance tax credit).

The 2012 final rule also included a premium aggregation function for the SHOP that was designed to assist employers whose employees were enrolled in multiple QHPs. Because this function will not be necessary in 2014 for SHOPs that delay implementation of the employee choice model, the proposed rule would make the premium aggregation function optional for plan years beginning before Jan. 1, 2015.

MedCon Benefit Systems, Inc. will continue to monitor health care reform developments and will provide updated information as it becomes available.

*This Legislative Brief is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinion be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel for legal advice.

Exchange Notice Requirements Delayed

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires employers to provide all new hires and current employees with a written notice about ACA’s health insurance exchanges (Exchanges), effective March 1, 2013.

On Jan. 24, 2013, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced that employers will not be held to the March 1, 2013, deadline. They will not have to comply until final regulations are issued and a final effective date is specified.

This MedCon Benefit Systems, Inc. Legislative Brief details the expected timeline for the exchange notice requirements.

Exchange Notice Requirements

In general, the notice must:

  • Inform employees about the existence of the Exchange and give a description of the services provided by the Exchange;
  • Explain how employees may be eligible for a premium tax credit or a cost-sharing reduction if the employer’s plan does not meet certain requirements;
  • Inform employees that if they purchase coverage through the Exchange, they may lose any employer contribution toward the cost of employer-provided coverage, and that all or a portion of this employer contribution may be excludable for federal income tax purposes; and
  • Include contact information for the Exchange and an explanation of appeal rights.

This requirement is found in Section 18B of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which was created by the ACA. The DOL has not yet issued a model notice or regulations about the employer notice requirement.

When do Employers have to Comply with the Exchange Notice Requirements?

Section 18B provides that employer compliance with the notice requirements must be carried out “[i]n accordance with regulations promulgated by the Secretary [of Labor].” Accordingly, the DOL has announced that, until regulations are issued and become applicable, employers are not required to comply with the exchange notice requirements.

The DOL has concluded that the notice requirement will not take effect on March 1, 2013, for several reasons. First, this notice should be coordinated with HHS’s educational efforts and IRS guidance on minimum value. Second, the DOL is committed to a smooth implementation process, including:

  • Providing employers with sufficient time to comply; and
  • Selecting an applicability date that ensures that employees receive the information at a meaningful time.

The DOL expects that the timing for distribution of notices will be the late summer or fall of 2013, which will coordinate with the open enrollment period for Exchanges.

The DOL is considering providing model, generic language that could be used to satisfy the notice requirement. As a compliance alternative, the DOL is also considering allowing employers to satisfy the notice requirement by providing employees with information using the employer coverage template as discussed in the preamble to the Proposed Rule on Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Programs and Exchanges.

Future guidance on complying with the notice requirement under FLSA section 18B is expected to provide flexibility and adequate time to comply.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor

 

*This MedCon Benefit Systems, Inc. Legislative Brief is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel for legal advice.

Form W-2 Reporting Requirements

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires employers to report the aggregate cost of employer-sponsored group health plan coverage on their employees’ Forms W-2. The purpose of the reporting requirement is to provide information to employees regarding how much their health coverage costs. The reporting does not mean that the cost of the coverage is taxable to employees.

This reporting requirement was originally effective for the 2011 tax year (for the W-2 Forms due by the end of January 2012). However, the IRS later made reporting optional for 2011 for all employers. The IRS further delayed the reporting requirement for small employers (those that file fewer than 250 Forms W-2) by making it optional for these employers until further guidance is issued. For the larger employers, the reporting requirement is mandatory for the 2012 Forms W-2 (that must be issued by the end of January 2013).

The IRS has provided interim guidance on how employers should comply with the Form W-2 reporting requirement. This guidance was first issued in April 2011 in Notice 2011-28. The IRS then revised and clarified its interim guidance by releasing Notice 2012-9 on Jan. 3, 2012. Notice 2012-9 provides technical reporting information for employers that include health coverage cost information on Forms W-2 for 2012 and later years. Employers that voluntarily comply with the reporting requirement for 2011 may also rely on the IRS’s interim guidance in Notice 2012-9.

This MedCon Benefit Systems, Inc. Legislative Brief describes the Form W-2 reporting requirement, including guidance provided by the IRS in Notice 2012-9.

Form W-2 Reporting Requirement

Section 9002(a) of ACA provides that employers must disclose the aggregate cost of applicable employer-sponsored coverage provided to employees on the Form W-2. Section 9002(a) specifically adds this information to the list of other items that must be included on the Form W-2. These items include information such as the individual’s name, social security number, wages, tax deducted, the total amount incurred for dependent care assistance under a dependent care assistance program and the amount contributed to any health savings account (HSA) by the employee or his or her spouse.

The inclusion of this information on the Form W-2 does not change the requirements with respect to taxable income, or the tax exclusion for amounts paid for medical care or coverage. Those items are addressed in another portion of the tax law that is not affected by this change. However, this information may be used to determine whether a plan is a “Cadillac plan” for purposes of the excise tax on high-cost health plans that will take effect in 2018.

The IRS has clarified that the reporting rule does not require an employer to issue a Form W-2 including the aggregate cost of coverage to an individual if the employer does not otherwise have to issue a W-2 for that person. For example, an employer would not have to issue a Form W-2 to a retiree or other former employee receiving no reportable compensation.

Employers Subject to the Reporting Requirement

In general, all employers that provide applicable employer-sponsored coverage must comply with the Form W-2 reporting requirement. This includes government entities, churches and religious organizations, but does not include Indian tribal governments or tribally chartered corporations wholly owned by an Indian tribal government.

For 2012, small employers are not subject to the reporting requirement. Small employers will continue to be exempt from the reporting requirement for later years, unless and until the IRS issues further guidance.

An employer is considered a small employer if it had to file fewer than 250 Forms W-2 for the prior calendar year. Thus, if an employer is required to file fewer than 250 Forms W-2 for 2011, the employer would not be subject to the reporting requirement for 2012. The IRS has indicated that the Internal Revenue Code’s aggregation rules do not apply for purposes of determining whether an employer filed fewer than 250 Forms W-2 for the prior year. However, if an employer files fewer than 250 Forms W-2 only because it uses an agent to file them, the employer does not qualify for the small employer exemption.

Coverage That Must Be Reported

Under the Form W-2 reporting requirement, the information that must be reported relates to “applicable employer-sponsored coverage.” Applicable employer-sponsored coverage is, with respect to any employee, coverage under any group health plan made available to the employee by the employer which is excludable from the employee’s gross income under Code section 106.

For purposes of this reporting requirement, it does not matter whether the employer or the employee pays for the coverage – it is the aggregate cost of the coverage that must be reported. The aggregate cost of the coverage is determined using rules similar to those used for determining the applicable premiums for purposes of COBRA continuation coverage. It must be determined on a calendar year basis.

Some types of coverage do not need to be reported on the Form W-2 under this requirement. These are:

  • Coverage under a dental or vision plan that is not integrated into a group health plan providing other types of health coverage;
  • Coverage under a health reimbursement arrangement (HRA);
  • Coverage under a multiemployer plan;
  • Coverage for long-term care;
  • Coverage under a self-insured group health plan that is not subject to COBRA (such as a church plan);
  • Coverage provided by the government primarily for members of the military and their families;
  • Excepted benefits, such as accident or disability income insurance, liability insurance, or workers’ compensation insurance;
  • Coverage for a specific disease or illness or hospital indemnity or other fixed indemnity insurance, provided the coverage is offered as independent, noncoordinated benefits and payment for the benefits is taxable to the employee; and
  • Coverage under an employee assistance program (EAP), wellness program or on-site medical clinic if the employer does not charge COBRA beneficiaries a premium for the benefits.

The reporting requirement does not apply to amounts contributed to an Archer medical savings account (Archer MSA) or amounts contributed to an HSA. Those amounts are already required to be separately accounted for on the Form W-2.

Also, salary reduction contributions to a health flexible spending arrangement (FSA) under a cafeteria plan are not required to be reported. However, if the amount of the health FSA for the plan year (including optional employer flex credits) exceeds the salary reduction elected by the employee for the plan year, the amount of the health FSA minus the salary reduction election for the health FSA must be reported.

Example: ABC Company maintains a cafeteria plan that offers permitted taxable benefits (including cash) and qualified nontaxable benefits (including a health FSA). The plan offers a flex credit in the form of a match of each employee’s salary reduction contribution. Sandy makes a $700 salary reduction election for a health FSA. ABC Company provides an additional $700 to the health FSA to match Sandy’s salary reduction election. The amount of the health FSA for Sandy for the plan year is $1,400. The amount of Sandy’s health FSA ($1,400) for the plan year exceeds the salary reduction election ($700) for the plan year. ABC Company must include $700 ($1,400 health FSA amount minus $700 salary reduction) in determining the aggregate reportable cost.

In addition, employers may include in the Form W-2 reportable amount the cost of coverage that is not required to be included in the aggregate reportable cost, such as HRA coverage, provided the coverage is applicable employer-sponsored coverage and is calculated under a permissible method.

Methods of Reporting

Coverage Provided after Termination of Employment

If an employer provides coverage (such as continuation coverage) to an employee who terminates employment during the year, the employer may apply any reasonable method of reporting the cost of coverage for that year, as long as that method is used consistently for all employees. Regardless of the method used, an employer does not have to report any amount for an employee who requests a Form W-2 before the end of the calendar year in which the employee terminated employment.

Example: Bob is an employee of XYZ Company on January 1, and continues employment through April 25. Bob had individual coverage under XYZ Company’s group health plan through April 30, with a cost of coverage of $350 per month. Bob elected continuation coverage for the six months following termination of employment, covering the period May 1 through October 31, for which he paid $350 per month. XYZ Company will have applied a reasonable method of reporting Bob’s cost of coverage if it uses either of the following methods consistently for all employees who terminate coverage during the year:

  • Reports $1,400 as the reportable cost under the plan for the year, covering the four months during which Bob performed services and had coverage as an active employee; or
  • Reports $3,500 as the reportable cost under the plan for the year, covering both the monthly periods during which Bob performed services and had coverage as an active employee, and the monthly periods during which Bob had continuation coverage under the plan.

Programs with Non-reportable Benefits

Also, if a program offers benefits that must be reported, and other benefits that are not subject to reporting, an employer may use any reasonable allocation method to determine the cost of the portion of the program providing a reportable benefit. If the portion of the program that provides a reportable benefit is only incidental in comparison to the portion of the program providing other benefits, the employer is not required to include either portion of the cost on the Form W-2.

Coverage Periods Spanning Calendar Years

If a coverage period, such as the final payroll period of a calendar year, includes December 31 and continues into the next calendar year, the employer has the following options:

  • Treat the coverage as provided during the calendar year that includes December 31;
  • Treat the coverage as provided during the following calendar year; or
  • Allocate the cost of coverage between each of the two calendar years using a reasonable allocation method that is consistently applied to all employees. The allocation method should generally relate to the number of days in the period of coverage that fall within each of the two calendar years.

Compliance Steps for Employers

Employers that file 250 or more Forms W-2 for 2011 will have to comply with the reporting requirement for 2012 (W-2 Forms provided in January 2013). These employers should ensure that they (or their payroll providers) are prepared to gather the health coverage information in advance of having to complete the Forms W-2 for 2012. In doing so, they should make sure they can identify the applicable employer-sponsored coverage that was provided to each employee and be prepared to calculate the aggregate cost of that coverage.

Employers may also have to address questions from employees regarding whether their health benefits are taxable under this new requirement. They can assure employees that this reporting is for informational purposes only, to show employees the value of their health care benefits so they can be more informed consumers. The amount reported does not affect tax liability, as the value of the employer contribution to health coverage continues to be excludible from an employee’s income, and it is not taxable.

 

MedCon Benefit Systems, Inc. will continue to update you if additional information becomes available with respect to this reporting requirement.

2013 Compliance Checklist

In light of the Supreme Court’s June 28, 2012, decision to uphold the health care reform law, or Affordable Care Act (ACA), employers must continue to comply with ACA mandates that are currently in effect. Employers must also prepare to comply with ACA changes that will go into effect in the future. To prepare for upcoming changes, employers need to be aware of the ACA mandates that will go into effect in 2013.

This MedCon Benefit Systems, Inc. Legislative Brief provides a compliance checklist for employers for 2013. Please contact your MedCon Benefit Systems, Inc. representative for assistance or if you have questions about changes that were required in previous years.

GRANDFATHERED PLAN STATUS

A grandfathered plan is one that was in existence when health care reform was enacted on March 23, 2010. If you make certain changes to your plan that go beyond permitted guidelines, your plan is no longer grandfathered. Contact your MedCon Benefit Systems, Inc. representative if you have questions about changes you have made, or are considering making, to your plan.

□    If you have a grandfathered plan, determine whether it will maintain its grandfathered status for the 2013 plan year. Grandfathered plans are exempt from some of the health care reform requirements. A grandfathered plan’s status will affect its compliance obligations from year-to-year.

□    If you move to a non-grandfathered plan, confirm that the plan has all of the additional patient rights and benefits required by ACA. This includes, for example, coverage of preventive care without cost-sharing requirements.

ANNUAL LIMITS

Effective for plan years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2014, health plans will be prohibited from placing annual limits on essential health benefits. Until then, however, restricted annual limits are permitted.

□    Unless a health plan received an annual limit waiver, its annual limit on essential health benefits for the 2013 plan year cannot be less than $2 million. (This limit applies to plan years beginning on or after Sept. 23, 2012, but before Jan. 1, 2014.)

SUMMARY OF BENEFITS AND COVERAGE

Health plans and health insurance issuers must provide a Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) to participants and beneficiaries. The SBC is a relatively short document that provides simple and consistent information about health plan benefits and coverage in plain language. A template for the SBC is available, along with instructions and examples, and a uniform glossary of terms.

Plans and issuers must provide the SBC to participants and beneficiaries who enroll or re-enroll during an open enrollment period beginning with the first open enrollment period that begins on or after Sept. 23, 2012. The SBC also must be provided to participants and beneficiaries who enroll other than through an open enrollment period (including individuals who are newly eligible for coverage and special enrollees) effective for plan years beginning on or after Sept. 23, 2012.

□    If your plan has an open enrollment period beginning on or after Sept. 23, 2012, confirm that the SBC is included with the open enrollment package. For participants and beneficiaries who enroll outside of the open enrollment period, confirm that the SBC will be provided to these individuals beginning with the plan year starting on or after Sept. 23, 2012.

  • If you have a self-funded plan, the plan administrator is responsible for providing the SBC.
  • If you have an insured plan, both the plan and the issuer are obligated to provide the SBC, although this obligation is satisfied for both parties if either one provides the SBC. Thus, if you have an insured plan, you should work with your health insurance issuer to determine which entity will assume responsibility for providing the SBC. Please contact your MedCon Benefit Systems, Inc. representative for assistance.

60-DAY NOTICE OF PLAN CHANGES

□    A health plan or issuer must provide 60 days’ advance notice of any material modifications to the plan that are not related to renewals of coverage. Notice can be provided in an updated SBC or a separate summary of material modifications. This 60-day notice requirement becomes effective when the SBC requirement goes into effect for a health plan.

PREVENTIVE CARE SERVICES FOR WOMEN

□    Effective for plan years beginning on or after Aug. 1, 2012, non-grandfathered health plans must cover specific preventive care services for women without cost-sharing requirements.

The covered preventive care services for women include: well-woman visits; gestational diabetes screening; human papillomavirus (HPV) testing; sexually transmitted infection (STI) counseling; human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) screening and counseling; FDA-approved contraception methods and contraceptive counseling; breastfeeding support, supplies and counseling;  and domestic violence screening and counseling. Exceptions to the contraception coverage requirement apply to certain religious employers. The preventive care guidelines for women are available at: www.hrsa.gov/womensguidelines/.

$2,500 CONTRIBUTION LIMIT FOR HEALTH FSAs

□    Effective for plan years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2013, an employee’s annual pre-tax salary reduction contributions to a health flexible spending account (FSA) must be limited to $2,500. (The $2,500 limit will be indexed for cost-of-living adjustments for 2014 and later years.)

Health FSA plan sponsors are free to impose an annual limit that is lower than the ACA limit for employees’ health FSA contributions. Also, the $2,500 limit does not apply to employer contributions to the health FSA and it does not impact contributions under other employer-provided coverage. For example, employee salary reduction contributions to an FSA for dependent care assistance or adoption care assistance are not affected by the $2,500 health FSA limit.

W-2 REPORTING

□    Beginning with the 2012 tax year, employers that are required to issue 250 or more W-2 Forms must report the aggregate cost of employer-sponsored group health coverage on employees’ W-2 Forms. The cost must be reported beginning with the 2012 W-2 Forms, which are issued in January 2013.

ACA’s W-2 reporting requirement is optional for smaller employers until further guidance is issued. Also, the reporting is for informational purposes only; it does not affect the taxability of benefits.

RETIREE DRUG SUBSIDY

The Medicare Part D program includes a Retiree Drug Subsidy (RDS) to encourage employers to continue providing prescription drug coverage to Medicare-eligible retirees. The RDS is available to certain employers that sponsor group health plans covering retirees who are entitled to enroll in Medicare Part D but elect not to do so. Employers receive RDS payments tax-free. In addition, before 2013, employers receiving the RDS could take a tax deduction for their retiree prescription drug costs, unreduced for the subsidy amount.

□    Beginning in 2013, employers receiving the RDS will no longer be permitted to take a tax deduction for the subsidy amount.

MEDICARE TAX INCREASES

□    Effective Jan. 1, 2013, the Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) tax rate increases by 0.9 percent (from 1.45 percent to 2.35 percent) on wages over $200,000 for an individual taxpayers and $250,000 for married couples filing jointly. (The tax is also expanded to include a 3.8 percent tax on unearned income in the case of individual taxpayers earning over $200,000 and $250,000 for married couples filing jointly).

An employer must withhold the additional Medicare tax on wages or compensation it pays to an employee in excess of $200,000 in a calendar year. An employer has this withholding obligation even though an employee may not be liable for the additional Medicare tax because, for example, the employee’s wages or other compensation together with that of his or her spouse (when filing a joint return) does not exceed the $250,000 liability threshold. Any withheld additional Medicare tax will be credited against the total tax liability shown on the individual’s income tax return (Form 1040).

EMPLOYEE NOTICE OF EXCHANGES

□    Effective March 1, 2013, employers must provide all new hires and current employees with a written notice about ACA’s health insurance exchanges (Exchanges). In general, the notice must:

  • Inform employees about the existence of the Exchange and give a description of the services provided by the Exchange;
  • Explain how employees may be eligible for a premium tax credit or a cost-sharing reduction if the employer’s plan does not meet certain requirements;
  • Inform employees that if they purchase coverage through the Exchange, they may lose any employer contribution toward the cost of employer-provided coverage, and that all or a portion of the employer contribution to employer-provided coverage may be excludable for federal income tax purposes; and
  • Include contact information for the Exchange and an explanation of appeal rights.

Federal agencies are expected to issue more specific guidance on this notice requirement and provide a model notice for employers to use.

CER FEES

ACA created the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (Institute) to help patients, clinicians, payers and the public make informed health decisions by advancing comparative effectiveness research. The Institute’s research is to be funded, in part, by fees paid by health insurance issuers and sponsors of self-insured health plans. These fees are called comparative effectiveness research fees or CER fees.

□    Self-funded plans and health insurance issuers must pay a $1 per covered life fee for comparative effectiveness research. Fees are effective for plan years ending on or after Oct. 1, 2012. Fees increase to $2 the next year and will be indexed for inflation after that. Full payment of the research fees will be due by July 31 of each year. It will generally cover plan years that end during the preceding calendar year. Thus, the first possible deadline for paying the CER fees is July 31, 2013.

HIPAA CERTIFICATION

□    Health plans must file a statement with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), certifying their compliance with HIPAA’s electronic transaction standards and operating rules. Under ACA, the first deadline for certifying compliance with certain HIPAA standards and rules is Dec. 31, 2013. HHS has indicated that it intends on issuing more guidance on this requirement in the future.

This MedCon Benefit Systems, Inc. Legislative Brief is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel for legal advice.
© 2012 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved. EEM 10/12

Introducing MedCon Connect

Your benefits consultants at MedCon Benefit Systems are excited to introduce a new comprehensive set of resources to our clients through our new client portal, MedCon Connect. Designed to provide you with time-saving tools and resources, MedCon Connect is a convenient, easy-to-use tool that enables you to manage your everyday tasks in the workplace. MedCon Connect allows you to:

  • Collaborate with our agency via the internet.
  • Quickly access timely news, information, and resources.
  • Connect with hundreds of thousands of peers in your industry.

If tackling your compliance with some of today’s most complicated legislation seems daunting, find clear, easily accessible answers with our set of comprehensive guides, frequently asked questions, quick reference and up-to-date briefs on salient topics including Health Care Reform, ADA, CHIPRA, COBRA, FMLA, HIPAA, HIPAA Privacy, Mental Health Parity, Section 125, Medicare Part D and more. In just a few clicks, access the following popular resources:

  • Health Care Reform – Find up-to-date information, including legislative updates, timelines and explanations to educate both you and your employees.
  • Questions and Answers – Resolve your doubts about federal legislation with daily questions and answers on popular, current legislative topics.
  • Legislative News – Educate yourself with updated benefits information on any specific legislative category, including COBRA, COBRA State, HIPAA, HIPPA Privacy and FMLA topics.
  • Compliance Forms – Choose election forms, eligibility forms and other general forms related to COBRA, HIPAA, FMLA and more. All forms can be downloaded in PDF or Word format, and many are available in Spanish.
  • Quick Links to Compliance – Find a comprehensive list of links to external government resources to help with compliance issues. Instead of spending hours searching the web for answers to your compliance questions and wondering which version is correct, you can now find your answers by category, directly from the government websites.

Clients will also have access to an extensive library featuring both employee-facing and informational documents for employers which allow you to quickly and effortlessly resolve a host of human resources and insurance-related issues. Find articles, brochures, forms, reports and more regarding:

  • Plan Design
  • Employee Newsletters
  • Wellness Programs

As our client, you have probably heard from us about the impact a health and wellness program can have on your overall health plan costs. MedCon Connect provides clients with an on-demand content library – communications promoting wellness and consumerism are pre-written and ready to distribute, saving you time and money. If you have never initiated a wellness program before, we have guides to get you started as well as research data to help you drive wellness initiatives and methods to evaluate your outcomes.

The nationwide benchmarking surveys administered through and available on MedCon Connect give insight into best practices across the industry. We are also connecting you with other HR professionals throughout the country via the Community Tab. MedCon Connect users have the ability to share industry-specific information and resources through an interactive forum that allows you to post questions to your peers, provide insight into others’ questions and share best practices.

Staying in compliance with OSHA is a snap with the practical and easily accessible collection of occupational safety resources you’ll find on MedCon Connect, including:

  • Compliance and FAQ – Information and answers regarding OSHA’s record-keeping guidelines, coupled with various related resources.
  • Instant OSHA Reporting – Generate up-to-the-minute OSHA reports and drill down by injury type, body part, group or division to identify trends and cost drivers.
  • Custom OSHA Forms – Generate a PDF with your OSHA 200 Log or Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses for a certain division or year.
  • Easy OSHA Log Maintenance – Edit, view and delete log entries quickly and easily with the log maintenance wizard, which makes maintenance simple and guarantees that your records are current.
  • View Recent Incidents – Stay on top of your company’s workplace safety with the online log’s handy at-a-glance view.

This is just another valuable tool we are proud offer to our clients. We encourage all of our clients to login to MedCon Connect by clicking here or using the link on the right-hand side of your screen on our home page. If you have not yet received your login information, please contact Maureen McReynolds: mmcreynolds@medconbenefit.com. We are looking forward to visiting with you and providing training on how to use this invaluable new tool.

How Employers Should Handle MLR Rebates

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires health insurance issuers to spend a minimum percentage of their premium dollars on medical care and health care quality improvement. This percentage, or medical loss ratio (MLR), is 85 percent for issuers in the large group market and 80 percent for issuers in the small and individual group markets. Issuers that do not meet the applicable MLR standard must provide rebates to consumers.

The MLR requirements, which are enforced by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), became effective for issuers in 2011. Rebates must be paid by August 1 following the end of the MLR reporting year. Thus, issuers are required to pay rebates by Aug. 1, 2012, based on their 2011 MLRs.

In a report on 2011 MLR data, HHS noted that the vast majority of individuals are insured by issuers that met or exceeded the applicable MLR standard. However, for 2011, issuers in the large and small group markets are still expected to return $386 million and $321 million, respectively, in rebates.

Employers with insured group health plans may receive rebates this summer based on their issuer’s 2011 MLR data. Issuers were required to submit their 2011 MLR reports to HHS by June 1, 2012, so they may already know whether they will be issuing rebates by Aug. 1, 2012. Employers that expect to receive rebates should become familiar with the MLR rebate rules and should decide how they will administer the rebates. For assistance with rebates, please contact your MedCon Benefit Systems, Inc. representative.

MLR rebates

An issuer that does not meet its MLR standard must provide a rebate to the policyholder, which is typically the employer that sponsors the plan in the group health plan context. For current enrollees, issuers may provide rebates in the form of a lump-sum payment or a premium credit (that is, a reduction in the amount of premium owed).

Also, to avoid having to pay a rebate, an issuer may institute a “premium holiday” during an MLR reporting year if it finds that its MLR is lower than the required percentage. According to HHS, an issuer may use a premium holiday only if it is permissible under state law. Also, any issuers using premium holidays must meet certain other requirements, such as providing the holiday in a nondiscriminatory manner and refunding premium overpayments.

How an employer should handle any MLR rebate it receives from an issuer depends on the type of group health plan (an ERISA plan, a non-federal governmental group health plan or a non-ERISA, non-governmental plan) and whether the rebate is considered a plan asset.

ERISA Plans

Most, but not all, group health plans are governed by ERISA. Employers with ERISA plans should not assume that they can simply retain an MLR rebate. The Department of Labor (DOL) issued Technical Release 2011-4 to explain how ERISA’s fiduciary duty and plan asset rules apply to MLR rebates. Any rebate amount that qualifies as a plan asset under ERISA must be used for the exclusive benefit of the plan’s participants and beneficiaries.

Is the Rebate a Plan Asset?

According to Technical Release 2011-4, in the absence of specific plan or policy language addressing these types of distributions, whether the rebate will constitute a plan asset depends, in part, on the identity of the policyholder and on the source of premium payments.

  • If the plan or its trust is the policyholder, the policy is an asset of the plan and the entire rebate must be treated as a plan asset.
  • If the employer is the policyholder, as is most often the case, the portion of the rebate that must be treated as a plan asset depends on who paid the insurance premiums. For example:
    • If the premiums were paid entirely out of trust assets, the entire rebate amount is a plan asset;
      • If the employer paid 100 percent of the premiums, the rebate is not a plan asset and the employer can retain the entire rebate amount;
  • If participants paid 100 percent of the premiums, the entire rebate amount is a plan asset; and
    • If the premiums were paid partly by the employer and partly by the participants, the percentage of the rebate equal to the percentage of the cost paid by participants is a plan asset.

How Should the Rebate be Used?

Once an employer determines that all or a portion of an MLR rebate is a plan asset, it must decide how to use the rebate for the exclusive benefit of the plan’s participants and beneficiaries. DOL Technical Release 2011-04 identifies the following methods for applying the rebates:

  • The rebate can be distributed to participants under a reasonable, fair and objective allocation method. If the employer finds that the cost of distributing shares of a rebate to former participants approximates the amount of the proceeds, the fiduciary may decide to limit rebates to current participants.
  • If distributing payments to participants is not cost-effective because the amounts are small or would give rise to tax consequences to the participants, the employer may utilize the rebate for other permissible plan purposes, such as applying the rebate toward future participant premium payments or toward benefit enhancements.

If a plan provides benefits under multiple policies, the employer must be careful to allocate the rebate for a particular policy only to the participants who were covered by that policy. According to the DOL, using a rebate generated by one plan to benefit another plan’s participants would be a breach of fiduciary duty.

Is There a Time Limit for Using Rebates?

To the extent a rebate qualifies as a plan asset, ERISA would generally require the amount to be held in trust. However, most group health plans receiving rebates do not maintain trusts because their premiums are paid from the employer’s general assets (including employee payroll deductions). In Technical Release 2011-4, the DOL provides relief from the trust requirement for premium rebates that are used within three months of their receipt.

In addition, directing an issuer to apply the rebate toward future participant premium payments or toward benefit enhancements adopted by the plan sponsor would avoid the need for a trust and, in some circumstances, may be consistent with the employer’s fiduciary duties. Employers that decide to take this approach should coordinate with their insurance issuers to establish the process for handling rebates.

Non-federal Governmental Plans

Group health plans maintained by non-federal government employers (for example, state and local governments) are not governed by ERISA’s fiduciary standards. HHS’ interim final regulations on the MLR rules address how rebates for these plans should be handled.

Under these regulations, employers must use the portion of the rebate attributable to the amount of premium paid by employees for the benefit of its employees covered under the policy. This portion of the rebate must be applied to reduce employees’ premiums or must be provided to these employees as a cash refund. Under either option, the rebate may be applied to employees enrolled during the year in which the rebate is paid, rather than during the MLR reporting year.

Non-ERISA, Non-governmental Plans

HHS has also addressed rebates for non-governmental group health plans that are not subject to ERISA, such as church plans. Under HHS final regulations, an issuer may make a rebate payment to the policyholder (typically, the employer sponsoring the plan) if it receives the policyholder’s written assurance that the rebate will be used for the benefit of current subscribers using one of the options described above for non-federal governmental plans. Without this written assurance, issuers must pay the rebate directly to employees covered under the policy during the MLR reporting year.

Tax Treatment of Rebates

On April 19, 2012, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued a set of frequently asked questions (FAQs) addressing the tax treatment of MLR rebates. In general, the rebates’ tax consequences depend on whether employees paid their premiums on an after-tax or a pre-tax basis.

After-tax Premium Payments

If premiums were paid by employees on an after-tax basis, the rebate will generally not be taxable income to employees and will not be subject to employment taxes. This tax treatment applies if the rebate is paid in cash or if it is applied to reduce current year premiums. However, if an employee deducted the premium payments on his or her prior year taxes, the rebate is taxable to the extent the employee received a tax benefit from the deduction.

Pre-tax Premium Payments

If premiums were paid by employees on a pre-tax basis under a cafeteria plan, the rebate will generally be taxable income to employees in the current year and will be subject to employment taxes. This is the case whether the rebate is paid in cash or is applied to reduce current year premiums. A premium reduction in the current year will reduce the amount that an employee can contribute on a pre-tax basis. Thus, there is a corresponding increase in the employee’s taxable salary that is also wages subject to employment taxes.

Additional Guidance

A copy of DOL Technical Release 2011-4 is available at: www.dol.gov/ebsa/newsroom/tr11-04.html.

A copy of the IRS’ FAQS is available at: www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=256167,00.html.

More MLR guidance is available from HHS at: http://cciio.cms.gov/programs/marketreforms/mlr/index.html.

Self-Funded Plans Under Health Care Reform

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) includes numerous reforms affecting the health coverage that employers provide to their employees. Many of these reforms apply to all group health plans, regardless of their method of funding. Plans that have grandfathered status under ACA, however, are not required to comply with select health care reform requirements. In addition, self-insured plans are exempt from certain ACA requirements. This MedCon Benefit Systems, Inc. Legislative Brief summarizes how the health care reform law applies to self-insured plans.
REFORMS THAT APPLY TO SELF-INSURED PLANS

As noted above, many of ACA’s reforms affect all group health plans, regardless of whether they are fully insured or self-insured. For example, among many other reforms, self-insured and fully insured plans must comply with the following ACA provisions:

  • Dependent coverage for adult children up to age 26;
  • Coverage of preventive health services without cost-sharing (grandfathered plans are exempt);
  • No rescissions of coverage, except in the case of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of material fact;
  • No lifetime limits on essential health benefits and annual limits are restricted until 2014 (in 2014, all annual limits are prohibited); and
  • Improved internal claims and appeals process and minimum requirements for external review (grandfathered plans are exempt).

In addition, both self-insured and fully insured plans are subject to ACA’s requirement to provide participants and beneficiaries with the uniform summary of benefits and coverage. Sponsors of self-insured and fully insured plans alike must also comply with ACA’s requirement to report the aggregate cost of employer-sponsored group health plan coverage on their employees’ Forms W-2.

REFORMS THAT DO NOT APPLY TO SELF-INSURED PLANS

Essential Health Benefits Package
Beginning in 2014, non-grandfathered insurance plans in the individual and small group markets must offer a comprehensive package of items and services, known as essential health benefits. This requirement applies to plans offered inside and outside of the state insurance exchanges (Exchanges). ACA identified in broad terms 10 benefit categories that must be included as essential health benefits. Within these broad categories, the individual states have flexibility to select their own benchmarks for defining essential health benefits.

Self-insured group health plans, health insurance coverage offered in the large group market and grandfathered plans are not required to cover essential health benefits.

Medical Loss Ratio Rules

The medical loss ratio (MLR) rules became effective on Jan. 1, 2011. These rules require health insurance issuers to spend 80 to 85 percent of their premium dollars on medical care and health care quality improvement, rather than administrative costs. Issuers that do not meet these requirements must provide rebates to consumers beginning in 2012. The MLR rules do not apply to self-insured plans.

Small Employer Tax Credit

Beginning with 2010 tax years, ACA created a tax credit for eligible small employers that provide health care coverage to their employees. In order to be eligible for the health care tax credit, an employer must:

  • Have fewer than 25 full-time equivalent employees (FTEs);
  • Pay average annual wages of less than $50,000 per FTE; and
  • Pay at least half of employee health insurance premiums (based on single coverage).

For tax years 2010 through 2013, the maximum health care tax credit is 35 percent of premiums for small business employers and 25 percent of premiums for small tax-exempt employers. An enhanced version of the credit will be effective in 2014.

The tax credit is only available for the purchase of health insurance coverage, and so it does not apply to self-insured coverage.

Review of Premium Increases

ACA required the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to establish a process for the annual review of unreasonable increases in premiums for health insurance coverage. HHS’s process provides that effective Sept. 1, 2011, issuers seeking rate increases of 10 percent or more for nongrandfathered plans in the individual and small group markets must publicly disclose the proposed increases, along with justification for the increases. Starting Sept. 1, 2012, the 10 percent threshold will be replaced with a state specific threshold to reflect insurance and health care cost trends particular to that state. The increases will be reviewed by either state or federal experts to determine whether they are unreasonable. This review process for rate increases applies to issuers in the small group and individual markets. However, it does not apply to grandfathered health plan coverage or to excepted benefits (for example, liability insurance, workers’ compensation insurance, limited scope dental or vision benefits, long-term care or nursing home benefits and hospital indemnity insurance). It also does not apply to self-insured plans.

Annual Insurance Fee

ACA’s revenue raising provisions require certain health insurance providers to pay an annual fee beginning in 2014. Issuers with net premiums in a calendar year of $25 million or less are exempt from the fee. Employers that self insure their employees’ health coverage are also exempt from the fee.

Methods to Allocate Insurance Risk

ACA includes reforms related to the allocation of insurance risk through reinsurance, risk corridors and risk adjustment. The purpose of these reforms, which become effective in 2014, is to protect against risk selection and market uncertainty as insurance changes and the Exchanges are implemented.

Self-insured plans are not subject to some of these provisions, such as the risk adjustment charges that states may impose on non-grandfathered plans in the individual and small group market. However, under ACA, each state must establish a transitional reinsurance program to help stabilize premiums for coverage in the individual market during the first three years of Exchange operation (2014-2016). Administrators of self-insured plans will be required to contribute to this program.

Insurance Market Reforms

Effective for 2014, health insurance issuers must comply with a new set of market reforms. Market reforms that are inapplicable to self-insured arrangements include:

  • Guaranteed Issue and Renewability – Health insurance issuers offering coverage in the individual or group market in a state must accept every employer and individual in the state that applies for coverage and must renew or continue to enforce the coverage at the option of the plan sponsor or the individual.
  • Insurance Premium Restrictions – Health insurance issuers will not be permitted to charge higher rates due to heath status, gender or other factors. Premiums will be able to vary based only on age (no more than 3:1), geography, family size and tobacco use.

Should you have questions about self-funded plans, health care reform, or any employee benefits, please feel free to contact the professionals at MedCon.

Health Care Reform Supreme Court Ruling – What It Means For Employers

On June 28, 2012, after much anticipation and speculation, the U.S. Supreme Court essentially upheld the entire Affordable Care Act (ACA) as constitutional. The main issue in the case was whether Congress had the authority under the U.S. Constitution to enact ACA’s individual mandate. Beginning in 2014, the individual mandate requires most individuals to obtain health care coverage or pay a penalty.

Because the Court upheld ACA, employers must continue to comply with ACA’s reforms.

  • ACA changes that have already been implemented will remain in effect, such as the requirement to cover adult children until age 26 and the requirement for non-grandfathered plans to cover certain preventive care services without cost-sharing.
  • ACA’s provisions that are not currently in effect will continue to be implemented as planned. For example, effective for 2013 plan years, participants’ pre-tax contributions to health flexible spending accounts (FSAs) will be limited to $2,500 per year.

While it is possible that changes will be made to ACA through future legislation or court rulings, ACA is the health care reform law currently in effect. Thus, employers should continue to prepare for ACA changes that become effective in 2012 and 2013. Employers should also keep in mind the ACA reforms that will take place in 2014.

ACA REFORMS – 2012 AND 2013

Annual Limits

Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, group health plans will no longer be able to impose annual limits on essential health benefits. However, until then, certain minimum annual limits are permitted. Unless a plan received a waiver of the annual limit requirements, its annual limits on essential health benefits should be set at least as high as the following amounts for each applicable plan year:

  • $750,000 for plan years beginning on or after Sept. 23, 2010, but before Sept. 23, 2011;
  • $1.25 million for plan years beginning on or after Sept. 23, 2011, but before Sept. 23, 2012; and
  • $2 million for plan years beginning on or after Sept. 23, 2012, but before Jan. 1, 2014.

Form W-2 Reporting Requirements

Beginning with the 2012 tax year, employers that are required to issue 250 or more W-2 Forms must report the aggregate cost of employer-sponsored group health coverage on employees’ W-2 Forms. The cost must be reported beginning with the 2012 W-2 Forms, which are due in January 2013. This requirement is optional for smaller employers for the 2012 tax year and until further guidance is issued. This reporting is for informational purposes only; it does not affect the taxability of benefits.

Women’s Preventive Care Services

Effective for plan years starting on or after Aug. 1, 2012, non-grandfathered plans must cover specific preventive health services for women without cost-sharing, such as deductibles, copayments and coinsurance. These services include well-woman visits, breastfeeding support, domestic violence screening, STD screening and contraceptives.

Exceptions to the contraceptive coverage requirement apply to religious employers.

Medical Loss Ratio Rebates

Fully insured plans may receive rebates in August 2012 if they qualify for a rebate from their health insurance issuers due to the medical loss ratio (MLR) rules. The MLR rules require insurance companies to spend a certain percentage of premium dollars on medical care and health care quality improvement, rather than administrative costs. Employers may receive rebates from issuers in the form of a premium credit, lump-sum payment or premium holiday, if permissible under state law. Any portion of a rebate that is a plan asset must be used for the exclusive benefit of the plan’s participants and beneficiaries. This may include, for example, reducing participants’ premium payments.

Summary of Benefits and Coverage

Plans and insurance issuers must provide a summary of benefits and coverage (SBC) to participants and beneficiaries. The SBC is intended to be a concise document – no more than four double-sided pages – providing simple and consistent information about health plan benefits and coverage in plain language. A template for the SBC is available, along with instructions and examples for completing the template and a uniform glossary of terms.

Plans and issuers must start providing the SBC as follows:

  • Issuers must provide the SBC to health plans effective Sept. 23, 2012.
  • Plans and issuers must provide the SBC to participants and beneficiaries who enroll or re-enroll during an open enrollment period beginning with the first day of the first open enrollment period that begins on or after Sept. 23, 2012. Thus, many plans will need to include the SBC in their open enrollment packages for 2013.
  • For participants who enroll in coverage other than through an open enrollment period (for example, newly eligible individuals and special enrollees), plans and issuers must provide the SBC beginning on the first day of the first plan year that begins on or after Sept. 23, 2012.

If either the plan or issuer provides the SBC to a participant or beneficiary in accordance with the timing and content requirements, both will have satisfied their SBC obligations. Thus, a fully-insured plan will satisfy the requirement to provide an SBC to an individual if the issuer provides a timely and complete SBC to the individual.

In addition, once the SBC requirement becomes effective, plans and issuers must provide 60 days’ advance notice of any material modifications to the plan that are not related to renewals of coverage. Notice can be provided in an updated SBC or a separate summary of material modifications.

CER Fees

Self-funded plans and health insurance issuers must pay comparative effectiveness research fees, or CER fees, to help fund ACA’s new Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute. The CER fees apply for plan years ending on or after Oct. 1, 2012. The CER fees do not apply for plan years ending on or after Oct. 1, 2019. For calendar year plans, the research fees will be effective for the 2012 through 2018 plan years.

For plan years ending before Oct. 1, 2013 (that is, 2012 for calendar year plans), the CER fee is $1 multiplied by the average number of lives covered under the plan. The CER fee will increase to $2 for the next plan year. For plan years ending on or after Oct. 1, 2014, the CER fee amount will be indexed for inflation.

Sponsors of self-funded plans and issuers must report and pay their CER fees by July 31 of each year for the plan year that ended during the preceding calendar year. The first possible due date for reporting and paying CER fees is July 31, 2013.

FSA $2,500 Contribution Limit

Effective for plan years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2013, an employee’s salary reduction contributions to a health FSA offered under a cafeteria plan are limited to $2,500. The $2,500 limit will be indexed for cost-of-living adjustments for 2014 and later years.

Elimination of Retiree Drug Subsidy Deduction

Employers that receive the Medicare Part D retiree drug subsidy have been able to take a tax deduction for their prescription drug costs, including costs attributable to the subsidy. Also, these employers do not have to pay tax on the drug subsidy amount. Effective for 2013, the deduction for the retiree drug subsidy will be eliminated.

Additional Medicare Tax Withholding

Effective Jan. 1, 2013, an additional 0.9 percent Medicare tax will apply to high-income individuals. Employers are required to withhold the additional Medicare tax on an employee’s wages in excess of $200,000 ($250,000 for married couples filing jointly).

Health Insurance Exchanges – Notice of Availability

Employers must provide all new hires and current employees with a written notice about ACA’s health insurance Exchanges and the consequences if an employee decides to forgo employer-sponsored coverage and purchase a qualified health plan through an Exchange. This notice requirement generally becomes effective as of March 1, 2013. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has indicated that it intends to issue model Exchange notices.

More agency guidance is also expected on this notice requirement.

ACA REFORMS – 2014

Additional ACA coverage mandates and reforms become effective in 2014. For example, effective for plan years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2014, group health plans and issuers may not:

  • Impose pre-existing condition exclusions on any covered individual, regardless of the individual’s age;
  • Have a waiting period for coverage that exceeds 90 days; or
  • Apply any annual limits on essential health benefits.

In addition, effective in 2014, ACA’s state-based insurance Exchanges are scheduled to be operational. Also in 2014, the individual mandate will become effective, as will ACA’s “pay or play” penalties for employers. Under the pay or play rules, certain employers with at least 50 full-time equivalent employees will face penalties if one or more of their full-time employees obtains a premium credit through an Exchange. An individual may be eligible for a premium credit either because the employer does not offer health care coverage or the employer offers coverage that is either not “affordable” or does not provide “minimum value.”

FUTURE OF HEALTH CARE REFORM

Although ACA survived a major hurdle when the Supreme Court upheld it, changes may be made to the health care reform law in the future by the courts or by Congress. Legal challenges to ACA’s validity are likely to continue. For instance, Catholic-affiliated institutions have already filed lawsuits challenging ACA’s contraceptive coverage requirement on the basis that it violates their religious freedoms. Also, Republican lawmakers are continuing with their efforts to eliminate or modify some of ACA’s controversial provisions. However, major legislative changes to ACA will likely require a significant shift in power in the legislative and executive branches of government and, thus, will depend on the outcome of the November 2012 elections.

MedCon Benefit Systems, Inc. will continue to monitor the status of the health care reform law, and will provide updated information as it becomes available.