The Affordable Care Act – How the Individual Mandate Impacts Your Employees

As the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) continues to be implemented, employers and their employees have questions about how the health care law affects them.

In an effort to keep our clients up to date about PPACA, we commit to answering the many questions that arise. Here is a basic sampling of the top questions:

Q: What is the individual mandate?

A: The individual mandate is the provision in the PPACA that says most US citizens and legal residents must have health insurance. For a listing of exemptions refer to www.Healthcare.gov. Some examples include: those who are incarcerated, members of a federally recognized tribe, those with religious exemptions, etc.

Your employees who do NOT comply with the individual mandate will be responsible for penalties when preparing individual tax returns. For 2014, the penalty equates to the greater of $95 or 1% of your annual income. If you earn under $10,150, there is no penalty. For 2015, the penalty equates to $325 or 2% of annual income. For 2016, the penalty equates to $695 or 2.5% of annual income.

As you can see, the Affordable Care Act has a direct impact on your employees regardless of whether or not you offer coverage. Dollars spent paying penalty fees could be used to contribute to group health insurance premiums, which in turn can lead to numerous benefits for your business – including employee retention, higher morale and peace of mind for our employees.

Q: What is the exchange or marketplace?

A: The public marketplace, or exchange, is the website where individuals can comparison shop for health plans and sign up for coverage. You have probably heard this referred to as: www.Healthcare.gov.

Federal tax subsidies to help pay for medical coverage may be available to eligible individuals if they enroll for coverage through the public marketplace.

The types of plans offered through the marketplace must be qualified health plans and must meet certain “metallic” levels of coverage – bronze, silver, gold or platinum. These metallic designations refer to the actuarial value of the plan, or how much, on average, the plan pays for the cost of covered benefits.

Q: What are essential health benefits?

A: Effective for plan years beginning on or after January 1st, 2014, all plans offered through the exchange are also required to cover certain, essential benefits. The PPACA requires plans to cover at least 10 general categories of items and services:

  • Ambulatory patient services (outpatient care)
  • Emergency services
  • Hospitalization
  • Maternity and newborn care
  • Mental health and substance use disorder benefits, including behavioral health treatment
  • Prescription drugs
  • Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices
  • Laboratory services
  • Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management
  • Pediatric services, including oral and vision care

Q: Who is eligible for a subsidy through the individual marketplace?

A: Some individuals are eligible for tax credits to assist with premium payments and cost-sharing. Individuals with incomes between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level are eligible, a family of four with income between $23,850 and $95,400.

Q: As an employer, should I offer health insurance to my employees?

A: Should you decide not to provide health insurance to your employees, you may be subject to penalties of up to $3,000 per employee. If you do provide coverage, it must be affordable and meet minimum value requirements. To maintain affordability, premiums may not exceed 9.55% of an employee’s annual income.

Most employees will find coverage offered through an employer to be more affordable than coverage offered on the marketplace based on your contributions. You have to weigh the cost of providing the benefit against the penalties as well as the intangible impact of not offering any coverage to your employees.

For help in making this important decision, we can work with you through our many resources and tools to estimate potential penalties against the cost of providing health care coverage to your employees.

This content is provided without any warranty of any kind. MedCon has taken reasonable steps to ensure this information is accurate and timely. If you have specific questions that pertain to your unique business environment or industry, we recommend that you consult legal council.

Small Group and Individual Markets: New Rating Restrictions for Health Insurance Premiums

Effective for 2014, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) reforms the rating practices of health insurance issuers in the individual and small group markets by limiting the factors that can vary premium rates. These rating restrictions do not apply to grandfathered plans, large group plans or self-funded plans.

Under the ACA’s reforms, issuers may vary the premium rate charged to a non-grandfathered plan in the individual or small group market from the rate established for that particular plan only based on the following factors:

  • Age (within a ratio of 3:1 for adults)
  • Family Size (individual or family)
  • Tobacco Use (within a ratio of 1.5:1)
  • Geography (rating area)

All other rating factors are prohibited. This means that several factors commonly used by issuers to set higher premiums prior to 2014, such as health status, claims history, duration of coverage, gender, occupation, small employer size and industry, can no longer be used.

Rating Methodology

In the final rule, HHS directs issuers to use the per-member rating methodology in the small group market. According to HHS, per-member rating ensures compliance with the requirement that age and tobacco rating only be apportioned to an individual family member’s premium, enhances employee choice inside the Exchanges’ Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) and promotes the accuracy of the ACA’s risk adjustment methodology.

States may require issuers to offer premiums based on average employee amounts where every employee in the group is charged the same premium. Also, according to HHS, the age bands, as implemented by the per-member-rating methodology, are consistent with the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (or the ADEA).

PERMISSIBLE RATING FACTORS

Age

The premium rate charged by an issuer for non-grandfathered health insurance coverage in the individual or small group market may vary by age, except that the rate may not vary by more than 3:1 for adults. The final rule defines “adults” as individuals age 21 and older.

The final rule specifies the following standard age bands for use in all states and markets subject to the ACA’s premium rating restrictions:

  • Children: A single age band for children ages 0 through 20.
  • Adults: One-year age bands for adults ages 21 through 63.
  • Older adults: A single age band for adults ages 64 and older.

Age for rating purposes is based on the date of policy issuance and renewal. However, for individuals who are added to the plan or coverage other than on the date of policy issuance or renewal, age may be determined as of the date they are added or enrolled in the coverage.

Geography

States may establish rating areas based on certain geographic divisions—counties, three-digit zip codes or metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) and non-MSAs. The final rule provides flexibility for states regarding the rating area configurations that will be presumed adequate by HHS. If a state does not establish rating areas, the default will be one rating area for each MSA in the state and one rating area for all other non-MSA portions of the state.

The final rule provides that states may establish different rating areas for the individual or small group markets, but rating areas must apply uniformly within each market and may not vary by product. If a state merges its individual and small group markets, rating areas will apply uniformly in both the individual and small group markets in the state.

Also, the final rule clarifies that the ACA does not limit the amount by which rates may vary based on geography. Thus, states and issuers may determine the appropriate variation for the geographic rating area factor. However, HHS cautions that rating area factors should be actuarially justified to ensure that individuals and employers are not charged excessively high premiums that would make the ACA’s guaranteed availability protections meaningless.

Family Size

Under the ACA’s rating restrictions, issuers may vary premiums based on the number of individuals covered under a policy, or family size. The final rule instructs issuers to develop premiums for family coverage by adding up the rates of covered family members. However, no more than the three oldest covered children under age 21 may be included in the family rate. According to HHS, this cap on covered children will mitigate premium increases for larger families. The final rule does not contain a cap on the number of family members age 21 and older whose per-member rates are added into the family premium.

The final rule does not specify the minimum categories of family members that must be rated together on a family policy. Since state laws differ with respect to marriage, adoption and custody, HHS believes that states are in the best position to make decisions regarding family coverage practices. Thus, states have the flexibility to require issuers to include specific types of individuals on a family policy.

Tobacco Use

The premium rate charged by an issuer for non-grandfathered health insurance coverage offered in the individual or small group market may vary for tobacco use, except that the rate may not vary by more than 1.5:1. The final rule clarifies that issuers may vary rates for tobacco only based on individuals who may legally use tobacco under federal and state law.

The final rule defines “tobacco use” as use of tobacco an average of four or more times per week within no longer than the past six months, including all tobacco products but excluding religious and ceremonial uses of tobacco. Tobacco use will be based on when a tobacco product was last used.

Issuers in the small group market may apply the tobacco rating factor only in connection with a wellness program that allows a tobacco user to avoid paying the full amount of the tobacco factor by participating in a tobacco cessation program.

Also, if an enrollee provides false or incorrect information about their tobacco use, the final rule allows an issuer to retroactively apply the appropriate tobacco use rating factor to the enrollee’s premium. However, the issuer may not rescind the coverage.

 

This MedCon Benefit Systems 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.

The Effects of Age Rating Band Changes Under Health Care Reform

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) includes provisions that prohibit discrimination by health plans against people with pre-existing conditions and provide certain protections for consumers. Effective for plan years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2014, ACA extends guaranteed issue protections for individuals and employers, prohibits the use of health and other factors to set premium rates, limits age rating and prohibits insurers from dividing up insurance pools.

On Feb. 22, 2013, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released an advance copy of a final rule regarding ACA’s health insurance market reforms and existing rate review program. These reforms apply to health insurance issuers offering non-grandfathered coverage both inside and outside of ACA’s health insurance exchanges (Exchanges).

Fair Health Insurance Premiums

ACA and the final rule limit the factors that can vary premium rates in small group and individual markets for non-grandfathered plans. Specifically, health insurance issuers will only be allowed to vary premiums based on:

  • Age (within a 3:1 ratio for adults);
  • Tobacco use (within a 1.5:1 ratio, subject to wellness program requirements in the small group market);
  • Family size; and
  • Geography.

All other rating factors are prohibited. This means that several factors frequently used to set premiums, such as health status, claims history, duration of coverage, gender, occupation, small employer size and industry, can no longer be used.

These limitations represent minimum federal standards for fair health insurance premiums. States can choose to enact stronger consumer restrictions. In addition, starting in 2017, states have the option of allowing large employers to purchase coverage through the Exchanges. For states that choose this option, these rating rules would also apply to all large group health insurance coverage.

Naturally, older patients tend to utilize health care more than younger patients. Currently the 5:1 age rate band, which is effective in 42 states, spreads the premium costs over 5 ranges of age groups. An older individual will pay no more than five times what a younger individual pays in premium, as set by the limits. On January 1, 2014, those premium costs will change overnight for both groups, with the younger patients’ premiums going up as much as 50% and the older patients’ premiums dropping up to 10%. While this is great news for some, it will likely drive premium rates even higher overall. If the younger population experiences an increase in premium that is unaffordable, they may choose not to purchase coverage or possibly drop current coverage. As the young patients drop off and leave only older patients who utilize health care more frequently, premiums will increase for everyone.

Age rating band changes, combined with limitations on other rating factors such as gender, health status and loss of SIC code discounts will increase your group coverage costs in 2014. Additionally, there are several fees which will become effective in January: exchange fees, insurance assessment fees, health insurance industry fees and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute Fee. While insurance companies are responsible for some of these fees, much of the cost will likely be shifted employers and in turn, employees.

Some industry experts expect fully insured health plans to experience minimum increases of 30% on 2014 renewals. As HHS releases new information almost daily, MedCon Benefit Systems Group, Inc. is assisting clients in plan design strategy and preparation to meet compliance rules. If you are unsure where you stand in the world of health care reform, MedCon is here to help.

Sources: Department of Health and Human Services and Insurance Network America

*The information discussed on this page 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.

MedCon Legislative Brief: Cost-sharing Limitations and Preventive Care Coverage Clarified

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) includes many changes related to health care coverage and raises a number of questions for employers. The Departments of Labor (DOL), Health and Human Services (HHS) and Treasury (Departments) jointly provide guidance in the form of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to assist in implementing ACA’s changes.

On February 20, 2013, the Departments issued FAQs on the ACA’s limitations on cost-sharing and coverage of preventive care services.

Limitations on Cost-sharing Under the ACA

The ACA added Public Health Service (PHS) Act section 2707(b). This section requires a group health plan to ensure that any annual cost-sharing imposed under the plan does not exceed the ACA’s limitations on out-of-pocket maximums and deductibles for employer-sponsored plans.

Those limits are foudn in Section 1302(c)(1) and (2). Section 1302(c)(1) limits out-of-pocket maximums and section 1302(c)(2) limits deductibles for employer-sponsored plans. The out-of-pocket maximums are tied to the limits under high-deductible health plans and the deductible limts are slated to start at $2,000 for single coverage and $4,000 for other than single coverage.

Due to unclear language in the statute, there has been confusion over which plans are subject to these limits, although grandfathered plans are clearly not subject to these requirements. The FAQs, along with the final rule on essential health benefits issued by HHS, provide clarification on this issue. This information is illustrated below, with additional detail provided in the following sections.

Deductible Limits

The Departments stated that they continue to believe that only non-grandfathered plans and issuers in the small group market (that is, small insured plans) are required to comply with the deductible limit described in section 1302(c)(2).

Under this guidance, the annual deductible limit does not apply to self-insured plans or large group market plans. The Departments intend to issue additional rules related to self-insured and large group health plans. Until final guidance is issued and becomes effective, self-insured or large group health plans can rely on the Departments’ stated intention to apply the deductible limits only to plans and issuers in the small group market.

Small insured plans are provided some relief in the final rule. A health plan’s annual deductible may exceed the ACA limit if a plan could not reasonably reach the actuarial value of a given level of coverage (that is, a metal tier—bronze, silver, gold or platinum) without exceeding the limit.

Out-of-Pocket Maximum Limits

The text of ACA’s out-of-pocket maximum limit broadly refers to “health plans.” HHS’ final rule provides that all non-grandfathered group health plans will be required to comply with the limitation on out-of-pocket maximums. This would include, for example, self-insured health plans and insured health plans of any size. These plans cannot exceed the 2014 limits under teh Internal Revenue Code for HSA (health savings account) out-of-pocket limits. For example, the 2013 limits are $6,250 for self-only coverage and $12,500 for family coverage – these amounts will be indexed annually.

The Departments recognize that plans may use more than one service provider to help administer benefits (for example, a third-party administrator for major medical coverage, a separate pharmacy benefit manager and a separate managed behavioral health organization). Separate plan service providers may impose different levels of out-of-pocket limitations and may utilize different methods for crediting participants’ expenses against any out-of-pocket maximums. These processes will need to be coordinated to comply with the annual out-of-pocket maximum limit, which may require new regular communications between service providers.

The Departments have determined that, only for the first plan year beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2014, where a group health plan or group health insurance issuer utilizes more than one service provider to administer benefits that are subject to the annual out-of-pocket maximum limit, the annual limit will be satisfied if both of the following conditions are met:

  • The plan complies with the out-of-pocket maximum limit with respect to its major medical coverage (excluding, for example, prescription drug coverage and pediatric dental coverage); and
  • To the extent there is an out-of-pocket maximum on coverage that does not consist solely of major medical coverage, this out-of-pocket maximum does not exceed the maximum dollar amount under ACA.

The Departments note, however, that existing regulations implementing Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA) prohibit a group health plan (or health insurance coverage offered in connection with a group health plan) from applying a cumulative financial requirement or treatment limitation, such as an out-of-pocket maximum, to mental health or substance use disorder benefits that accumulates separately from any cumulative financial requirement or treatment limitation established for medical/surgical benefits. Accordingly, under MHPAEA, plans and issuers are prohibited from imposing an annual out-of-pocket maximum on all medical/surgical benefits and a separate annual out-of-pocket maximum on all mental health and substance use disorder benefits.

Coverage of Preventive Services

ACA requires non-grandfathered health plans to cover certain preventive health services without imposing cost-sharing requirements for the services. This requirement generally became effective for plan years beginning on or after Sept. 23, 2010. It does not apply to grandfathered health plans.

The FAQs address which specific services non-grandfathered health plans must cover in order to comply with this requirement. Most notably, non-grandfathered health plans must cover:

  • Contraceptives The FAQs confirm that the preventive care coverage requirements ensure women’s access to the full range of FDA-approved contraceptive methods including, but not limited to, barrier methods, hormonal methods and implanted devices, as well as patient education and counseling, as prescribed by a health care provider. Thus, a plan or issuer is not permitted to cover only oral contraceptives. However, plans and issuers may use reasonable medical management techniques to control costs and promote efficient delivery of care. For example, plans may cover a generic drug without cost-sharing and impose cost-sharing for equivalent branded drugs (although certain limitations apply).
  • Lactation Counseling and Breastfeeding Equipment and Supplies – Coverage of comprehensive lactation support and counseling and costs of renting or purchasing breastfeeding equipment extends for the duration of breastfeeding. Nonetheless, plans and issuers may use reasonable medical management techniques to determine the frequency, method, treatment or setting for a recommended preventive item or service, to the extent not specified in the recommendation or guideline.

Additionally, the FAQs address issues relating to out-of-network services, if a plan does not have any in-network providers to provide a particular preventive service required under the ACA. While nothing in the interim final regulations generally requires a plan or issuer that has a network of providers to provide benefits for preventive services provided out-of-network, this provision is premised on enrollees being able to access the required preventive services from in-network providers. Thus, if a plan or issuer does not have in its network a provider who can provide the particular service, then the plan or issuer must cover the item or service when performed by an out-of-network provider and not impose cost-sharing with respect to the item or service.

 

Source: U.S. Department of Labor

*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.

Health Care Reform in the Supreme Court

Last week, the Supreme Court began hearings regarding the constitutionality of the PPACA. Unum U.S. Senior Vice President and General Counsel Chris Collins released a summary of the major issues to be reviewed by the Court regarding the PPACA.

Likely the most discussed issue thus far has been the constitutionality of the individual mandate, followed by the question of whether or not the PPACA would continue to stand if the individual mandate is deemed unconstitutional. The Court will also need to determine if the case can be decided before 2014 when the “tax penalty” goes into effect.

For the full summary from Chris Collins of Unum, please click here to view. Keep checking back as we follow the Supreme Court activity regarding Health Care Reform.

Let Us Reflect

Last week marked the two year anniversary of Health Care Reform, and this week begins with the Supreme Court starting to hear arguments over the law’s constitutionality. I think it is a good time to reflect back on what has happened as reform enters into its third year.

With the exception of young people, who has benefited by having coverage extended to age 26 under their parents’ coverage? More Americans lack coverage today than four years ago. The percentage of uninsured rose to 17.1% this year, the highest rate since 2008.

The Class Act, the part designed to provide long-term care insurance, has unfortunately been dismissed, thrown out, given up on.

“If you like what you have, you can keep it.” If you like your employer-sponsored coverage you can keep it. Unfortunately, according to a Gallup poll, the number of folks getting their coverage from their employer is decreasing. This number reached a record low in 2011, with only 44.6% getting health insurance from employers.

This week marks an unprecedented case. One that will impact most everyone in some way. The Supreme Court has several options, from upholding the law to striking it down in its entirety. It could also avoid the law’s constitutionality at all, if it finds the lawsuits challenging the law are premature.

Whatever happens – MedCon will be watching and keeping up with all updates. Please keep checking back to stay informed.

Summary of Benefits and Uniform Glossary Regulations

On Februray 9, 2012, final regulations were released regarding the Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) and Uniform Glossary requirements for health insurance plans. The goal is to provide consumers with simple information on plan coverage and help consumers better understand the coverage they have in order to compare differences in benefits and coverages when they are shopping for a new plan.

Beginning on the first day of the first open enrollment period that begins on or after September 23, 2012, plans must provide the SBC to participants and beneficiaries who enroll or re-enroll for coverage during the open enrollment period. Additionally, an SBC must be provided to all participants and beneficiaries who do not enroll during an open enrollment period, including newly eligible individuals and special enrollees, on the first day of the first plan year that begins on or after September 23, 2012.

An SBC must be provided as either a stand alone document or in combination with other summary materials, but it must be prominently displayed at the beginning of the document. A template of the SBC is available for use here from the U.S. Department of Labor, in addition to the Uniform Glossary. Groups are also required to provide participants and beneficiaries who reside in a county where 10% or more of the population is literate in the same non-English language, a copy of the SBC and Uniform Glossary in the non-English language. The Department of Health and Human Services has agreed to provide written translations of the SBC template to comply with this requirement and post on their website.

Be sure to visit the U.S. Department of Labor Health Reform website for full details and instructions regarding the latest SBC regulations, and as always, feel free to contact us at MedCon Benefit Systems with any questions.

Could The Debt Ceiling Bill Affect Health Insurance?

IF Congress happens to fail to make the $1.2 trillion in the required cuts, the end result is a mandatory across the board cuts. The cuts would make up the difference between what Congress saves and the $1.2 trillion. If reading between the lines, the cuts could ultimately affect what the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (better known as the PPACA), has set aside to help consumers and small business employers buy health coverage through the new health insurance exchange system set up to start in 2014.

Many items being considered for savings could all have significant impact on the future of healthcare. Stay tuned!

Are You Up To Date On The Patient Protection And Affordable Care Act?

As your benefit plan professionals, MedCon feels it is important to keep you informed on the latest changes and/or additions to the complicated Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

There are several compliance regulations that are scheduled to be in effect soon. You may not have to comply with some of these regulations depending upon your plan status with regard to the “Grandfather” clause. Even if your plan qualifies under the clause, the following provisions are required for all benefit plans renewing on or after September 23, 2010.

  • Dependents covered to age 26
  • No pre-existing conditions for those under the age of 19
  • No lifetime annual coverage limits for “essential health benefits”

The following is a general compliance checklist:

  • Insure an open enrollment process is available to accommodate the 30-day  “special enrollment period” for adult dependent children. (This special enrollment is for those adult children who previously became ineligible due to age limits.)
  • Identify any individuals who have met the current “lifetime” or “annual” benefit limit and are still eligible to participate in the plan. A special 30-day enrollment period must be provided for anyone in this category as well.
  • Correct any current plan wording that is contrary to the pre-existing condition ban based on those under age 19.
  • Evaluate and correct FSA plan designs to coincide with the new exclusion for reimbursement of over the counter drugs purchased on or after January 1, 2011.
  • Prepare the new W-2 reporting requirements effective for the 2012 plan year. Total cost of medical benefits will be reported on the 2013 W-2.
  • Determine your plan’s “Grandfather” status. If yes, then have proper documentation. If no, make sure your plan covers the required “preventive care services” with no cost sharing by the participant.
  • Make sure your plan is in compliance with the emergency service provision. Your plan may not require prior authorization for hospital ER services even if they are out of network. Both in and out of network benefits must be the same insofar as copays and coinsurance is concerned.
  • If you employ more than 200 employees you must be prepared to auto-enroll all full time employees as soon as they are eligible for coverage. Although the date of implementation has not yet has not been set, this is part of the new regulations.

If you have questions or would like more information on healthcare reform, please contact Sharon McReynolds at 214.739.5215 ext. 102. 

*This article is intended to provide general guidance and should not be considered legal advice.

 

 

HealthCare Reform – What Changes Will Go Into Effect NOW?

You have no doubt been inundated with HealthCare Reform news- how the healthcare insurance landscape will see changes.  Most of what is being discussed, like employers paying penalties for not sponsoring a health plan is not effective until 2014.
So, what are the key changes you need to be dealing with NOW?
1.  Effective with renewals on or after September 23, 2010 plans that offer dependent coverage must extend that coverage to dependents up to their 26th birthday, even if they are married and not living at home, unless they are eligible for group coverage elsewhere.
2.  Insurance carriers can not deny claims on children (under the age of 19) related to pre-existing conditions, again for renewals on or after September 23, 2010.
3.  Health plans can not impose lifetime limits on the dollar value of coverage for plans that renew on or after September 23, 2010.
This is just a sample of some of the changes and impact of the HealthCare Reform, for more information check back or call us at 214/739-5215.