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Employers will have the option to provide pre-deductible coverage of telehealth services for people with high-deductible health plans for another two years.
The $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill signed into law by President Joe Biden Dec. 29—which contains a number of other important provisions affecting employers, including the Secure 2.0 retirement overhaul and pregnancy accommodations—includes a provision extending the telehealth relief in the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Significantly for employers, the provision allows health savings account (HSA)-qualifying high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) to cover telehealth and other remote-care services on a pre-deductible basis. Additionally, an otherwise HSA-eligible individual can receive pre-deductible coverage for telehealth and other remote-care services from a stand-alone vendor outside of the HDHP. In both cases, the pre-deductible telehealth coverage won’t hinder an individual’s eligibility to make or receive HSA contributions. Many employer groups and stakeholders have said that the waiver improves health access, notably for some employees who may have avoided telehealth because of out-of-pocket expenses.
SHRM has been advocating for the continuation of pre-deductible telehealth coverage, arguing that improved access to telehealth allows employees to access more health care options—including mental health services—at their convenience.
“Pre-deductible coverage helps employees because it allows insurance providers to cover telehealth services without requiring a co-pay or deductible upfront,” said Emily Dickens, SHRM chief of staff, head of public affairs and corporate secretary. “Employers need the flexibility to design benefit plans that improve employees’ well-being and help retain top talent. I am grateful to our members for engaging with lawmakers from across the nation to secure this extension.”
The CARES Act allowed HSA-eligible health plans to provide pre-deductible coverage for telehealth services, but only through 2021. Normal cost-sharing was still allowed for telehealth visits, such as through co-pays that the plan may require after the deductible is paid. It was then renewed in the 2022 Consolidated Appropriations Act for April 1 through Dec. 31, 2022.
The omnibus bill also extends Medicare telehealth provisions for another two years, including delaying in-person screening requirements for Medicare telehealth mental health services and allowing providers to provide acute hospital-level care at home.
Still, the extensions don’t permanently extend telehealth relief—something many health and policy experts advocate for. Without a further extension, the telehealth relief will expire Dec. 31, 2024, for calendar-year plans. Some groups expect Congress might make these changes permanent, although some lawmakers are concerned with telehealth’s potential for higher costs and increased fraud.
Yesterday (May 4, 2017) , the House of Representatives narrowly passed the American Health Care Act of 2017 (AHCA), which contains major parts that would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (commonly referred to as Obamacare or ACA). The next obstacle the bill faces is making it through the Senate, which proves to be a formidable challenge.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has not had time yet to analyze the current version of the bill, but this is expected next week. The bill must now pass the Senate and could get pushed back to the House if it sees changes in the upper chamber.
In the meantime, here are some highlights we know about the bill based on how it is written today and how it would work:
We will continue to keep you up to date on the bill as it progress through legislation.
On December 22, 2014, the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued proposed regulations for changes to the Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC).
The proposed regulations clarify when and how a plan administrator or insurer must provide an SBC, shortens the SBC template, adds a third cost example, and revises the uniform glossary. The proposed regulations provide new information and also incorporate several FAQs that have been issued since the final SBC regulations were issued in 2012.
These proposed changes are effective for plan years and open enrollment period beginning on or after September 1, 2015. Comments on the proposed regulations will be accepted until March 2,2015 and are encourages on many of the provisions.
The new SBC template eliminates a significant amount of information that the Departments characterized as not being required by law and/or as having been identified by consumer testing as less useful for choosing coverage.
The sample completed SBC template for a standard group health plan has been reduced from four double-sided pages to two-and-a-half double-sided pages. Some of the other changes include:
Revisions to the uniform glossary have also been proposed. The glossary must be available to plan participants upon request. Some definitions have been changed and new medical terms such as claim, screening, referral and specialty drug have been added. Additional terms related to health care reform such as individual responsibility requirement, minimum value and cost-sharing reductions have also been added.
Paper vs Electronic Distribution
SBCs may continue to be provided electronically to group plan participants in connection with their online enrollment or online renewal of coverage. SBCs may also be provided electronically to participants who request an SBC online. These individuals must also have the option to receive a paper copy upon request.
SBCs for self-insured non-federal government plans may continue to be provided electronically if the plan conforms to either the electronic distribution requirements that apply ERISA plan or the rules that apply to individual health insurance coverage.
Types of Plans to Which SBCs Apply
The regulations confirm that SBCs are not required for expatriate health plans, Medicare Advantage plans or plans that qualify as excepted benefits. Excepted benefits include:
SBCs are required for: