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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.