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On July 22, 2019, the IRS announced that the ACA affordability percentage for the 2020 calendar year will decrease to 9.78%. The current rate for the 2019 calendar year is 9.86%.
As a reminder, under the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate, an applicable large employer is generally required to offer at least one health plan that provides affordable, minimum value coverage to its full-time employees (and minimum essential coverage to their dependents) or pay a penalty. For this purpose, “affordable” means the premium for self-only coverage cannot be greater than a specified percentage of the employee’s household income. Based on this recent guidance, that percentage will be 9.78% for the 2020 calendar year.
Employers now have the tools to evaluate the affordability of their plans for 2020. Unfortunately, for some employers, a reduction in the affordability percentage will mean that they will have to reduce what employees pay for employee only coverage, if they want their plans to be affordable in 2020.
For example, in 2019 an employer using the hourly rate of pay safe harbor to determine affordability can charge an employee earning $12 per hour up to $153.81 ($12 X 130= 1560 X 9.86%) per month for employee-only coverage. However in 2020, that same employer can only charge an employee earning $12 per hour $152.56 ($12 X 130= 1560 X 9.78%) per month for employee-only coverage, and still use that safe harbor. A reduction in the affordability percentage presents challenges especially for plans with non-calendar year renewals, as those employers that are subject to the ACA employer mandate may need to change their contribution percentage in the middle of their benefit plan year to meet the new affordability percentage. For this reason, we recommend that employers re-evaluate what changes, if any, they should make to their employee contributions to ensure their plans remain affordable under the ACA.
As we have written about previously, employers will sometimes use the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) safe harbor to determine affordability. While we won’t know the 2020 FPL until sometime in early 2020, employers are allowed to use the FPL in effect at least six months before the beginning of their plan year. This means employers can use the 2019 FPL number as a benchmark for determining affordability for 2020 now that they know what the affordability percentage is for 2020.
With the open enrollment period for the Exchange beginning October 1, 2013, many questions are beginning to surface regarding how premium subsidies will work as individuals start to evaluate all of their options available to them.
Q1: It sounds like individuals who choose to buy health insurance on the Exchange will have to pay the full monthly premium for the coverage they choose and subsidies will be paid through tax credit that are received annual as a tax refund. How can a low income person who is living paycheck to paycheck afford this?
A: When consumers apply for a plan on the Exchange (aka marketplace), you will be asked to provide income information to determine if you are eligible for a premium tax credit (aka subsidy). A subsidy will be available to people with incomes up to 400% of the federal poverty level ($45,960 for an individual in 2013 or $94,200 for a family of four).
If you qualify for the subsidy, consumers can opt to receive their tax credits in advance, and the exchange will send the money directly to the insurer every month. This subsidy will reduce the amount you owe up front on your medical premium. You can also choose, instead, to receive your credit when you file your taxes the following year.
It is important to estimate your income as accurately as possible and to contact the Exchange during the year if you find out that you are making more or less than expected. When completing your 2014 taxes, your estimate will be reconciles with what you actually earned. If you have received more than you were due, you could have to repay those amounts.
Q2: What happens if I do not pay my premium in a timely manner after I have purchased insurance on the Exchange? If I am terminated from the policy, will I be able to have it re-instated?
A:Consumers who are receiving premium tax credit for coverage on the Exchange will have a 90 day grace period to catch up on late premiums. Other consumers who do not receive a subsidy may get more or less time, depending on the Exchange rules. Once the grace period has passed, consumers will generally have to wait until the next annual open enrollment period in the fall to re-enroll in coverage. Please note though, if an individual goes uninsured for more than 3 months, they could be assess a penalty for not having insurance coverage of up to $95, or 1% of income in 2014, whichever is greater.
Please contact our office for assistance with evalutating your options and obtaining coverage through the Exchange.