“Pay Or Play” Reprieve Still Leaves Employers Facing Challenging 2014 Health Care Reform Deadlines

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) yesterday (July 10, 2013) shared its first “formal” guidance officially implementing the Obama Administration’s decision to delay until 2015 enforcement of certain of the employer shared responsibility or “pay-or-play” rules of new Internal Revenue Code (Code) Section 4980H first informally announced by Department of Treasury Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy Mark Mazar in this July 2 Blog.

Notice 2013-45outlines the specific “transition relief” rules under which the IRS says it will forego during 2014 enforcement of the employer shared responsibility penalty tax rules and associated and information reporting requirements that are slated to take effect for single employers or groups of commonly controlled or affiliated employers that employ 50 or more full-time employees (Large Employers) beginning January 1, 2014 as part of the sweeping health care reforms enacted under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Affordable Care Act).  Even with the extension of time…

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Study Finds Down Economy, Not Health Care Reform Accounts For Slower Health Care Cost Increases; Projects Renewed Costs When Economy Improves

Bad economic times, and not health care reform, account for the record slowdown in U.S. health care spending, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation study, Assessing the Effects of the Economy on the Recent Slowdown in Health Spending(Study).   The Study findings call into question assertions by Obama Administration officials crediting health care reform, pressure on health plans applied by the Obama Administration officials and other regulatory and enforcement efforts with reducing the curve on health care costs.

According to Kaiser Foundation, government statistics show that the period from 2009-2011 had the slowest growth (3.9%) in health care expenditures since the government began tracking health expenditure data in 1960.   

The Study that evaluated how the economy affects U.S. health spending concluded that economic factors beyond the health system explain 77 percent of the slowdown and predicts more rapid growth when the economy strengthens.  Meanwhile, the Study credits only 23 percent of…

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The Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) wants to ask the 115 health plans, health care clearinghouses, and health care providers (covered entities) that OCR audited in 2012 for compliance with Privacy and Security Rules of the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA)  under its HIPAA Audit Program to share feedback about their experience.  The planned survey announcement follows OCR’s recent released of restated HIPAA Privacy & Security Rules scheduled to take effect in September, 2013 and as OCR continues and expanding its HIPAA Audit Program in 2013.  All together, the signs are clear that covered entities should update and strengthen their HIPAA compliance and risk management practices to withstand the tightened rules and enforcement.

OCR initiated the HIPAA Audit Program in 2012 to comply with Section 13411 of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act’s requirement that it audit…

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Risk Operations Compliance

Since the Supreme Court’s June 28, 2012National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius health care reformruling upholding the “pay or play” mandates of the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act (ACA), most business leaders, plan fiduciaries, health insurers, administrators of employment-based group health plans have accepted the need to prepare for health care reform changes taking effect in 2014.  

Unfortunately, delays in the release of anticipated regulatory guidance, the development and implementation of federal and state exchanges and other regulatory and market reforms have made it difficult for many businesses to understand their obligations, options, and their associated costs. 

Most business and industry leaders report frustration with the continuing lack of clarity and uncertainty about rules and costs.  Meanwhile, sequester just made life (and costs) worse for many small employers whose current 2013 health plan budget depends upon plans to benefit from he Small Business Health Care Tax Credit (SBHCTC)…

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Risk Operations Compliance

Businesses using non-employee workers should heed the recently announced expansion of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Voluntary Classification VCS Program (VCS Program) as yet another warning to clean up their worker classification practices and defenses for all workers performing services for the business in any non-employee capacity. 

Relying upon misclassifications of workers as nonemployed service providers presents many financial, legal and operational risks for businesses.  When businesses treat workers as nonemployees who render services in such a way that makes the worker likely to qualify as a common law employee, the business runs the risk of overlooking or underestimating the costs and liabilities of employing those workers.  The enforcement records of the U.S. Department of Labor Wage & Hour Division contains a lengthy and ever-lengthening record of businesses subjected to expensive backpay and penalty awards because the business failed to pay minimum wage or overtime to workers determined to qualify…

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An so it begins. This new guidance on the Wellness, Adult Pre-Existing Condition and Essential Health Benefits rules of the Patient Protection and Affordable Car Act (ACA)marks the beginning of the anticipated rollout of the next wave of guidance implementing ACA for health plans and insurers. With the election over and the Supreme Court’s ruling rejecting initial challenges to the employer and individual mandates employer and other health plans and insurers must move quickly to evaluate and adjust their cost estimates, plan designs, documentation, practices and communication to respond to these and other ACA regulations. Get started by signing on to listen to a complimentary breifing on this newly released guidance Tuesday, November 27, 2012 at Noon Central Time.

Employers and other health plan sponsors, insurers, and their administrators and service providers should consider the advisability of updating health plan cost projections, plan documents and procedures, communications and other practices in response to new and proposed guidance interpreting federal health plan rules under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) released today (November 20, 2012).

Solutions Law Press, Inc. plans will host a webex executive study group briefing to update its members and other interested persons on this new and proposed guidance on Tuesday, November 27, 2012 at Noon Central Time.  Interested persons wishing details about registration for this briefing should send an e-mail here.

Guidance Released Today

Earlier today, the Departments of Labor and Health & Human Services issued guidance implementing ACA provisions that make it illegal for insurance companies to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, as well as guidance impacting wellness and disease management programs…

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2012 Expected To Bring Increased Enrollment, Lower Premiums & New Enforcement & Regulatory Challenges For Medicare Advantage Plans

Medicare Advantage enrollment will rise and premiums will decline in 2012.   While plans can expect increased enrollment, they also face increasing  challenges in managing the demands of increased government regulation under Health Care Reform and other new regulations, as well as rising governmental scrutiny of premiums and compliance.  Consequently, while more individuals than ever are expected to sign up for Medicare Advantage Plan coverage, the plans still face significant compliance and operational challenges.

According to the Department of  Health  & Human Services (HHS) , Medicare Advantage premiums on average will be 4% lower in 2012 than in 2011.  Meanwhile HHS  reports that Medicare Advantage plans project enrollment to increase by 10%. This follows an earlier HHS  announcement that average prescription drug plan premiums will remain virtually unchanged in 2012.

Of people with Medicare, HHS reports 99.7% continue to enjoy access to a Medicare Advantage plan, and benefits will remain consistent with those offered in 2011.  To offset declining premiums and other costs, however, many industry experts expect that plans will make greater use of technology in place of human staffing, cut back on broker compensation and utilization and implement other  operational changes to help control operations costs.

While many Medicare Adtange and Medicaid Advantage Plans will benefit from increased enrollment, producing promised benefits and avoiding regulatory sanctions amid tightening  budgets remains a  challenge for many of these plans.  Medicare and Medicaid  Advantage plans are tightly regulated by federal and state law.  Over the past few years, the compliance, premiums, profits and other activities of these  and other  health plans have been heavily scruitinzed by Congress and federal and state regulators.  As part of the stepped up health care fraud and other  cost containment  efforts, federal regulators have stepped up audit and enforcement against these programs.  Several plans have suffered administrative sanctions or other discipline under these laws.  Most commentatorys anticipate this scrutiny to expand in 2012.

Learn more  here.

For Assistance or Additional Information

Nationally and internationally known for her knowledge and work on health and other employee benefit matters and engaging and informative presentations, attorney, author and policy advocate Cynthia Marcotte Stamer will help you prepare your plan and organization to cope with these and other challenges of understanding and coping with health care reform. 

Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPPT Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Arrangements, an ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits Council Representative, incoming ABA TIPS Employee Benefit Plan Committee Vice Chair, former ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group Chair, past Southwest Benefits Association Board Member, Employee Benefit News Editorial Advisory Board Member, Board Certified in Labor and Employment Law and a widely published speaker and author,  Ms. Stamer has more than 24 years experience advising businesses, plans, fiduciaries, insurers and governments on health care, retirement, employment, insurance, :and tax program design, administration, defense and policy and related employment, insurance and health care matters.    Her experience includes extensive experience  advising insured and self-insured ERISA group medical and other plans,  Medicare and Medicaid Advantage plans, mini-med, high-deductible and other consumer driven medical, long-term care, occupational injury, ex-pat, association, fraternal benefit and other managed care and medical benefit plans and insurers, their service providers,  insurers,  sponsors, fiduciaries, technology providers and others.   A primary drafter of the Bolivian pension law, Ms. Stamer also has more than 30 years experience working on legislative and regulatory health care, pension, workforce, education and immigration reform matters including extensive work on the Pension Protection & Affordable Care Act, HIPAA, COBRA, state managed care and other  insurance and other laws.  In addition to her experience advising governments and others internationally about these matters, she  regularly advises and represents employers, employee benefit plans, insurers, health care and managed care providers and others about evolving laws and regulations and assists them in dealing with Congress, the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Labor, Immigration and Customs, OCR, OIG, CMS and other HHS agenices, the FTC, the Justice  Department, state insruance and health departments, and others.

 A widely published author and popular speaker, Ms. also regularly publishes and speaks for a broad range of organizations  including American Bar Association, Aspen Publishers, World At Work, Benefits Magazine, Employee Benefit News, Spencer Publications, SHRM, the International Foundation, Solutions Law Press and many others.  She  currently or previously has served on the editorial advisory board of Employee Benefits News,  BNA Employee Benefits CDRolm and a wide range of other highly regarded publications.  Her insights on these and other matters have appeared in Managed Care Executive, Health Leaders, Private Payers News, the Wall Street Journal, various publications of  the Bureau of National Affairs, Aspen, Atlantic Information Serices, the Wall Street Journal, and many other industry and news publications.   In recognition of this extensive record of employee benefit experience and involvement, Ms. Stamer recently was selected to be inducted as a Fellow in the American  College of Employee Benefits Counsel.

You can learn more about Ms. Stamer and her experience, review some of her other training, speaking, publications and other resources, and register to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns from Ms. Stamer here. For important information concerning this communication click here.

About Solutions Law Press

Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, compensation, data security and privacy, health care, insurance, and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and other key operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources available at www.solutionslawpress.com

THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

©2011 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press.  All other rights reserved.

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HHS Says Affordable Care Act Helped 1 Million Additional Young Adults Have Health Insurance

The Department of Health & Human Services is touting the Affordable Care Act as helping 1 million young adults get health coverage.  On September 21, 2011, HHS announced that data from the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that the  Affordable Care Act has helped increase the number of young adults who have health insurance.  According to HHS, data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) shows that in the first quarter of 2011, the percentage of adults between the ages of 19 and 25 with health insurance increased by 3.5 percentage points, representing approximately 1 million additional young adults with insurance coverage compared to a year ago.

For Help With These Or Other Health Plan Or Employee Benefit Matters

If you would like help reviewing or defending your organizations health plan or other insurance or employee benefit, employment, health care or other practices in light of these or other laws, please contact attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.

Immediate past Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current Co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Vice-Chair of the ABA TIPS Employee Benefits Committee, a council member of the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, and past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Ms. Stamer is recognized, internationally, nationally and locally for her more than 24 years of work, advocacy, education and publications on health and other employee benefit and related workforce, insurance and health care matters. 

A board certified labor and employment attorney widely known for her extensive and creative knowledge and experienced with health benefit and insurance matters, Ms. Stamer continuously advises and assists employee benefit plans, their sponsoring employers, fiduciaries, insurers, administrators, service providers, insurers and others to monitor and respond to evolving legal and operational requirements and to design, administer, document and defend medical and other welfare benefit, qualified and non-qualified deferred compensation and retirement, severance and other employee benefit, compensation, and human resources programs and practices.  She works extensively with plan sponsors, insurers, administrators, technology and other service providers and others to develop and operate legally defensible programs, practices and policies that promote the client’s human resources, employee benefits or other management goals.  Ms. Stamer also is a widely published author and highly regarded speaker on these and other employee benefit and human resources matters who is active in many other employee benefits, human resources and other management focused organizations. 

You can learn more about Ms. Stamer and her experience, review some of her other training, speaking, publications and other resources, and register to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns from Ms. Stamer here. For important information concerning this communication click here.

About Solutions Law Press

Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, compensation, data security and privacy, health care, insurance, and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and other key operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources available at www.solutionslawpress.com

THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

©2011 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press.  All other rights reserved.

 

 

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CMS Sets 9/22/11 Deadline For Plans To Apply For Affordable Care Act Annual Limit Waiver Relief

6/17 Guidance Says Temporary Relief Offered Through 2014 Unavailable For Plans Not Applying By 9/22/11

Health plans and insurers wishing to qualify for a temporary waiver of annual limit restrictions enacted under the Affordable Care Act after September 22, 2011 must act quickly and should expect to face tougher qualification requirements.

Plans Must Apply Before 9/22/11 & Meet Tightened Requirements To Preserve Possibility Of Temporary Relief Qualification For Post 9/22/11 Plan Years 

On Friday, June 17, 2011, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that CMS will not accept or consider any new applications or requests for extensions of temporary waivers of the Affordable Care Act annual limitation requirements.  

Additionally, CMS also updated the requirements that plans and insurers applying for a new or extension of an existing annual limit waiver  before September 22, 2011 through 2013.  Under the new guidance, any plans receiving these waivers also will have to meet tighter requirements to qualify for the requested annual limit waiver for post-September 22, 2011 plan years.

The Affordable Care Act will ban annual limits for non-grandfathered health plans beginning in 2014.  Until then, the Affordable Care Act provides for the phased out of annual limits.  The phase out of the annual limits is intended to preserve access to needed benefits and the affordability of coverage until the reforms scheduled to take effect in 2014 are in place. 

Currently, most plans cannot impose an annual limit that is lower than $750,000.  Beginning in September, 2011, the allowable annual limit under the Affordable Care Act will increase to $1.25 million and to $2 million for plan years beginning in September 2012. 

Temporary Waiver Program Provides Relief For Some Qualifying Plans

In response to concerns that compliance with the phased in annual limit restrictions would result in significant cost increases or coverage terminations for many plans,  CMS last year issued guidance that granted temporary waivers from the phased in annual limits for qualifying limited benefit,, “mini-med” or certain other qualifying plans that submitted timely applications demonstrating that compliance with the phaseout limits would result in a significant decrease in access to benefits or a significant increase in premiums and met other qualification requirements. (For a list of applications previously approved or denied by city and state, see cciio.cms.gov/resources/files/approved_applications_for_waiver.html.)

CMS Most Likely To Approve Waiver Requests For Plans With Lower Annual Limits But Other Plans Also Can Apply

Like the waiver program guidance for 2010, the June 17, 2011 guidance technically gives all plans and issuers with restricted annual limits below $2 million the opportunity to apply for a temporary waiver before September 22, 2011.  However, not all plans will necessarily qualify for the requested relief.   

Under the temporary waiver program, CMS authority to decide whether to approve or deny an annual limit waiver request made by a plan that otherwise meets all requirements. CMS has indicated that it is most likely to approve waivers for plans with low annual limits (e.g., $10,000), as CMS sees these plans as most likely to need waivers to prevent a significant increase in premiums or decrease in access to coverage to comply with the current limit of $750,000.  In contrast, CMS views plans with higher annual limits as less needful of a temporarywaiver because complying with the new rules is unlikely to lead to a significant increase in premiums or decrease in access to care. CMS says that its actuarial analysis indicates that most plans that currently have annual limits above $750,000 and below $2 million can meet the increased 2011 annual limit of $1.25 million with minimal premium increases (less than one percent).  Similarly, CMS predicts that increasing annual limits from $1.25 million to $2 million in 2012 will have a “small impact” on premiums. Consequently, CMS is less likely to approve waiver requests for plans that already have higher limits in effect.

CMS Also Tightening Other Requirements For Waiver Relief Qualification

In addition to applying for a waiver before September 22, 2011 and showing the requisite impact on plan costs or coverage, the July 17 guidance also will require that plans seeking a temporary waiver of the annual limit after September 22, 2011 meet other more stringent conditions.  Among other things, plans with waivers will be required:

  • To tell consumers that their health care coverage is subject to an annual dollar limit lower than what is allowed under the law;
  • Include the dollar amount of the annual limit along with a description of the plan benefits to which the limit applies;
  • Show how the annual limit would affect a consumer who was hospitalized to help people understand how far their coverage will reach if they become seriously ill; and
  • Must attest annually to their compliance with the consumer disclosure requirement.

Plans & Sponsors Should Act Quickly To Keep Option of Qualification For Temporary Relief Option

Plans and insurers that wish to preserve the possibility of qualifying for temporary relief from the otherwise applicable Affordable Care Act limitations on annual waivers for post-September 22, 2011 plan years should act quickly to prepare and submit their application for relief.

For Help or More Information

If you have questions or need help understanding or responding to the Regulations, with other health benefit design, administration or operations concerns, or with other employee benefits, compensation, labor or employment or other workforce management concerns, please contact the author of this update, Board Certified Labor and Employment attorney and management consultant Cynthia Marcotte Stamer hereor at (469)767-8872.

Ms. Stamer is scheduled to conduct training on these and other health benefit requirements for a number of organizations is upcoming months.  For information about these and other training opportunities or for other resources and information, see here or contact Ms. Stamer directly.

Past Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Chair of the ABA RPTE Employee Benefit and Other Compensation Committee, and a council member of the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, Ms. Stamer is nationally recognized for her more than 23 years pragmatic and innovative health program work.

Board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization with extensive leading edge health plan experience, Ms. Stamer has worked continuously throughout her career helping health plan sponsors, fiduciaries, administrators, insurers and others design, administer and defend health and other employee benefit and insurance programs domestically and internationally. She is widely recognized for her experience helping design and implement legally compliant self-insured and insured health reimbursement, mini-med, high-deductible health plans, limited benefit plans, 24-hour and occupational medicine, ex-pat and medical tourism, deductible reimbursement and other creative health benefit programs to solve a wide range of financial and other challenges while coping with changing regulatory and market realities. Her work includes both working with clients to design, document, implement and administer these and other arrangements, as well as the development of wellness and disease management, claims administration and appeals, eligibility, and other administrative services, processes and technologies.  She also works with plan fiduciaries, plan sponsors, insurers, administrators, brokers and advisors, bankruptcy trustees, creditors, debtors, service providers and their officers and directors about the prevention, investigation, mitigation and resolutions of civil and criminal liability arising from suspected or known benefit administration claims, breaches of fiduciary duty, privacy and data security breach, vendor disputes and other disputes arising in relation to employee benefit and insurance arrangements.  As a continuing part of this representation, Ms. Stamer regularly represents and defends plan sponsors, fiduciaries, third party administrators and other service providers and management officials in dealings with the Department of Labor, Department of Justice, Department of Health & Human Services, Department of Defense, Securities and Exchange Commission, state insurance regulators, state attorneys general and other federal and state regulators and prosecutors and private plaintiffs in connection with investigations, prosecutions, audits and other actions arising from employee benefit, insurance and related arrangements and products.

Recognized in the International Who’s Who of Professionals and bearing the Martindale Hubble Premier AV-Rating, Ms. Stamer also is a highly regarded author and speaker, who regularly conducts management and other training on a wide range of labor and employment, employee benefit, human resources, internal controls and other related risk management matters.  Her writings frequently are published by the American Bar Association (ABA), Aspen Publishers, Bureau of National Affairs, the American Health Lawyers Association, SHRM, World At Work, Government Institutes, Inc., Atlantic Information Services, Employee Benefit News, and many others. For a listing of some of these publications and programs, see here. Her insights on human resources risk management matters also have been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, various publications of The Bureau of National Affairs and Aspen Publishing, the Dallas Morning News, Spencer Publications, Health Leaders, Business Insurance, the Dallas and Houston Business Journals and a host of other publications. In addition to her many ABA leadership involvements, she also serves in leadership positions in numerous human resources, corporate compliance, and other professional and civic organizations. Her insights on these and other matters appear in the Bureau of National Affairs, Spencer Publications, the Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Business Journal, the Houston Business Journal, World At Work, the ICEBS, SHRM and many other national and local publications. For additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience or to access other publications by Ms. Stamer see here or contact Ms. Stamer directly.

About Solutions Law Press

Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources including:

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile at here or e-mailing this information here.

©2011 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  Non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press.  All other rights reserved.

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New Guidance on Affordable Care Actg Grandfathered Health Plan Qualification Released

Guidance published by the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Labor and the Treasury (the Agencies) on April 1, 2011 provides welcome clarifications about the workings of the “grandfathered health plan rules” that play a key role in determining what health plans and insurance policies must comply with certain key health insurance coverage reforms enacted as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), as amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (the Reconciliation Act) (collectively, the Affordable Care Act). 

Health plans, health insurers and sponsors, fiduciaries and service providers of these arrangements should monitor and consider carefully this and other emerging guidance when making decisions about the design and administration of health benefit programs in response to the Affordable Care Act.

Grandfathered Health Plan Status A Key Determinant of What Health Care Reform Rules Apply

While the Affordable Care Act generally requires that health plans and health insurance policies comply with a series of new mandates established by the Affordable Care Act beginning with the first plan year that begins after September 22, 2010, the Affordable Care Act, Interim Final Regulations originally jointly published June 17, 2010 as subsequently amended on November 17, 2011 (the Regulations).provide that certain plans or coverage existing on March 23, 2010 that qualify as “grandfathered health plans” are subject to only certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act.  The Affordable Care Act and Regulations refer to these plans or health insurance coverage as “grandfathered health plans.”

Qualifying As Grandfathered Health Plan

For plans and insurers wishing to preserve the grandfathered health plan status of their programs, understanding when changes or other events affect the health plan’s ability to qualify as a grandfathered health plan is critical to understanding the consequences and potential costs of proposed plan design changes or certain other actions.

For purposes of determining when an arrangement that existed on March 22, 2010 qualifies as a “grandfathered health plan” for purposes of ACA, the Regulations require that the plan meet certain notification, documentation and other requirements set forth in the Regulations.  The Regulation also provides a health plan that existed on March 23, 2010 will lose its eligibility for grandfathered status if the plan is amended to make significant changes that cut benefits or increase costs to covered persons. In order to avoid a loss of grandfathered health plan status, the Regulations require that except for certain “routine changes” identified in the Regulation, the health plan not have been modified or impacted by certain other changes after March 22, 2011. See HHS, DOL & IRS Rules Define “Grandfathered” Group Health Plans & Health Insurance Coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  Consequently, sponsors, insurers and administrators of health plans or health insurance policies that intend to rely upon grandfathered health plan status to limit the mandates applicable to their programs under the Affordable Care Act need a clear understanding of what changes and events will disqualify their plan or program for grandfathered health plans status.

April 1 Guidance

The FAQIV guidance jointly published April 1 by the Agencies helps to clarify certain aspects of the workings of the grandfathered health plan rules as construed and implemented under these Regulations. FAQIV, among other things:

  • Clarifies the date that a loss of grandfathered status becomes effective as a result of a plan amendment or other change is the date that the plan amendment or other change that will result in the loss of grandfathered status takes effect under the terms of the plan;
  • Shares a non-exhaustive list of reasons for transferring employees from a grandfathered health plan to another health plan that the Agencies recognize as “bona fide employment-based reasons” that permit the transfer of employees from one grandfathered health plan to another plan without a loss of grandfathered health plan status;
  • States that forfeiture of grandfathered health plan status does not result solely as a result of an increase in the participant co-payment or other cost-sharing under a health plan that results because a drug originally classified as having no generic alternative changes because a generic alternative becomes available and is added to the formulary, with a resulting increase in the cost-sharing level for the brand-name drug;
  • States that for purposes of determining if a health plan has experienced a change in the employer contribution rate that would result in a loss of grandfathered health plan status in a health plan where the employer contribution is determined based on a formula, an increase in the amount of the required employee contribution resulting as plan costs increase will not trigger a loss of grandfathered status if the employer contribution formula (or its underlying elements used to calculate the contribution) does not change;
  • Provides added guidance about when a health plan can add or expand value based design features to a health plan without forfeiting its grandfathered health plan status; and
  • Invites public input about how the Agencies should treat value based plan design or wellness program related additions or changes to health plans for purposes of the grandfathered health plan rules.

FAQIV is only one of a continuous stream of new guidance about the Affordable Care Act and other federal and state health benefit program mandates which plan sponsors, insurers, administrators and fiduciaries need to understand and respond to effectively as they deal with their health benefit programs and arrangements.  Ms. Stamer is scheduled to conduct training on these and other health benefit requirements for a number of organizations over the upcoming month.  For information about these and other training opportunities or for other resources and information, see here or contact Ms. Stamer directly.

For Help or More Information

If you have questions or need help understanding or responding to the Regulations, with other health benefit design, administration or operations concerns, or with other employee benefits, compensation, labor or employment or other workforce management concerns, please contact the author of this update, Board Certified Labor and Employment attorney and management consultant Cynthia Marcotte Stamer here or at (469)767-8872.

Past Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Chair of the ABA RPTE Employee Benefit and Other Compensation Committee, and a council member of the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, Ms. Stamer is nationally recognized for her more than 23 years pragmatic and innovative health program work.

Board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization with extensive leading edge health plan experience, Ms. Stamer has worked continuously throughout her career helping health plan sponsors, fiduciaries, administrators, insurers and others design, administer and defend health and other employee benefit and insurance programs domestically and internationally. She is widely recognized for her experience helping design and implement legally compliant self-insured and insured health reimbursement, mini-med, high-deductible health plans, limited benefit plans, 24-hour and occupational medicine, ex-pat and medical tourism, deductible reimbursement and other creative health benefit programs to solve a wide range of financial and other challenges while coping with changing regulatory and market realities. Her work includes both working with clients to design, document, implement and administer these and other arrangements, as well as the development of wellness and disease management, claims administration and appeals, eligibility, and other administrative services, processes and technologies.  She also works with plan fiduciaries, plan sponsors, insurers, administrators, brokers and advisors, bankruptcy trustees, creditors, debtors, service providers and their officers and directors about the prevention, investigation, mitigation and resolutions of civil and criminal liability arising from suspected or known benefit administration claims, breaches of fiduciary duty, privacy and data security breach, vendor disputes and other disputes arising in relation to employee benefit and insurance arrangements.  As a continuing part of this representation, Ms. Stamer regularly represents and defends plan sponsors, fiduciaries, third party administrators and other service providers and management officials in dealings with the Department of Labor, Department of Justice, Department of Health & Human Services, Department of Defense, Securities and Exchange Commission, state insurance regulators, state attorneys general and other federal and state regulators and prosecutors and private plaintiffs in connection with investigations, prosecutions, audits and other actions arising from employee benefit, insurance and related arrangements and products.

Recognized in the International Who’s Who of Professionals and bearing the Martindale Hubble Premier AV-Rating, Ms. Stamer also is a highly regarded author and speaker, who regularly conducts management and other training on a wide range of labor and employment, employee benefit, human resources, internal controls and other related risk management matters.  Her writings frequently are published by the American Bar Association (ABA), Aspen Publishers, Bureau of National Affairs, the American Health Lawyers Association, SHRM, World At Work, Government Institutes, Inc., Atlantic Information Services, Employee Benefit News, and many others. For a listing of some of these publications and programs, see here. Her insights on human resources risk management matters also have been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, various publications of The Bureau of National Affairs and Aspen Publishing, the Dallas Morning News, Spencer Publications, Health Leaders, Business Insurance, the Dallas and Houston Business Journals and a host of other publications. In addition to her many ABA leadership involvements, she also serves in leadership positions in numerous human resources, corporate compliance, and other professional and civic organizations. Her insights on these and other matters appear in the Bureau of National Affairs, Spencer Publications, the Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Business Journal, the Houston Business Journal, World At Work, the ICEBS, SHRM and many other national and local publications. For additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience or to access other publications by Ms. Stamer see here or contact Ms. Stamer directly.

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Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources including:

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©2011 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  Non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press.  All other rights reserved.

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