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The Department of Labor has just published a series of FAQs regarding premium reimbursement arrangements. Specifically, the FAQs address the following arrangements:
Situation #1: An arrangement in which an employer offers an employee cash to reimburse the purchase of an individual market policy.
When an employer provides cash reimbursement to the employee to purchase an individual medical policy, the DOL takes the position that the employer’s payment arrangement is part of a plan, fund, or other arrangement established or maintained for the purpose of providing medical care to employees, regardless of whether the employer treats the money as pre or post tax to the employee. Therefore, the arrangement is considered a group health plan that is subject to the market reform provisions of the Affordable Care Act applicable to group health plans and because it does not comply (and cannot comply) with such provisions, it may be subject to penalties.
Situation #2: An arrangement in which an employer offers employees with high cost claims a choice between enrollment in its group health plan or cash.
The DOL takes the position that offering a choice between enrolling in the group health plan or cash only to employees with a high claims risk would be discriminatory based on one or more health factors. The DOL states that such arrangements will violate such nondiscrimination provisions regardless of whether (1) the cash payment is treated by the employer as pre-tax or post-tax to the employee, (2) the employer is involved in the selection or purchase of any individual medical policy, or (3) the employee obtains any individual health insurance. The DOL also notes that such an arrangement, depending on facts and circumstances, could result in discrimination under an employer’s cafeteria plan.
Situation #3: An arrangement where an employer cancels its group policy, sets up a reimbursement plan (like an HRA) that works with health insurance brokers or agents to help employees select individual insurance policies, and allows eligible employees to access the premium tax credits for Marketplace coverage.
The DOL takes the position that such an arrangement is a considered a group health plan and, therefore, employees participating in such arrangement are ineligible for premium tax credits (or cost-sharing reductions) for Marketplace coverage. The DOL also takes the position that such arrangements are subject to the market reform provisions of the ACA and cannot be integrated with individual market policies to satisfy the market reforms. Thus, such arrangements can trigger penalties.
There has been quite a bit of banter regarding whether any of the foregoing arrangements could be an effective way for employers to avoid complying with the market reforms and other provisions of the Affordable Care Act applicable to group health plans. These FAQs are a strong indication that the DOL will be forceful in its interpretation and enforcement of these provisions.
It was announced on Wednesday, March 5th, by the Obama Administration that it would allow some health plans that do not currently meet all Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirements to continue offering non-compliant insurance for another two years. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released the announcement, clarifying the new policy.
In November 2013, the Obama administration decided that some non-grandfathered health plans in the small group and individual markets would not be considered out of compliance if they failed to meet certain coverage provisions of the ACA. The transition relief was originally scheduled to last for one year, and was viewed as a response to the numerous health insurance policy cancellations that would result from the new requirements.
This recent announcement extends this relief for two additional years. CMS released the following:
“At the option of the States, health insurance issuers that have issued or will issue a policy under the transitional policy anytime in 2014 may renew such policies at any time through October 1, 2016, and affected individuals and small businesses may choose to re-enroll in such coverage through October 1, 2016.”
Who Will This Impact?
This decision, which will likely prevent another wave of cancellations that were scheduled to begin November 1, 2014 and will impact some insurance offerings, but is unlikely to have a significant impact, since only about half of the states have opted to grant extensions to health plans within their jurisdictions. Further, the number of people currently on these non-compliant plans has been dropping, and is expected to continue to decline. Under the new policy, these plans (which typically offer fewer benefits at lower costs since they do not have to abide by the ACA’s minimum essential coverage) will still be available until plans expire in 2017.
Please note that it will be up to each individual state, as well as each individual insurance carrier, as to if they will decide to adopt this additional two year extension. Under the original one year transitional relief, even though it was allowed in the State of Florida, there are currently some health insurance carriers who have decided to not allow groups to renew their existing non-compliant medical plans.
We will continue to keep you up to date of new developments in ACA implementation as they arise. Please contact our office for additional information regarding your group’s medical policy and the impact of this recent change on it.
You may have heard a lot about how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is going to change health insurance in the next year, but does it all apply to you? If you get your insurance from your employer, there may be a chance that you may be enrolled in a “grandfathered plan” and some of these changes may not affect you – yet.
Some health plans were allowed to be exempt from some of the ACA’s rules and protections in the interest of a smooth transition and to allow employers and individuals to keep their current policies in force without having to make substantial changes. Almost half of all Americans who get insurance through their jobs are enrolled in such plans, however that number is expected to continue to decline every year.
Consumers should know the status of their plans since that may determine whether they are eligible for certain protections and benefits created by ACA. For example, an employee at a large company may wonder why his employer provided coverage does not included the free preventative services that he has heard about on the news. In order to understand this, you must understand the status of your current medical plan and how grandfathering works.
What is a grandfathered plan?
Most health insurance plans that existed on March 23, 2013 are eligible for grandfathered status and therefore do not have to meet all of the requirements of the health care law. But if an insurer or employer makes significant changes to a plan’s benefits or how much members pay through premiums, copays, or deductibles, then the plan loses that status.
Both individual and group plans can be grandfathered. If you get coverage through an employer and they currently offer employees a grandfathered plan as part of their benefits package, you can enroll in this plan even if you were not enrolled on March 23, 2010.
What Rules Does a Grandfathered Plan Have to Follow?
A grandfathered plan has to follow some of the same rules other plans so under the ACA. For example, the plans can not impose lifetime limits on how much health care coverage an individual can receive, and they must offer dependent coverage for young adults until age 26.
There are many rules, however, that grandfather plans do not have to follow. For example, they are not required to provide preventative care without cost-sharing. In addition, they do not have to offer a package of “essential health benefits” that individual and small group plans must offer beginning 2014. Grandfathered individual plans can still impose annual dollar limits (such as capping key benefits at $750,000 in a given year) and they can deny coverage for children under age 19 if they have pre-existing conditions.
How Many People Are Enrolled in Grandfathered Plans?
In 2013, 36% of those who get coverage through their employer are enrolled in a grandfathered health plan. This number is down from 48% in 2012 and 56% in 2011, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation Employer Health Benefits Survey. Most plans are expected to lose grandfather status over time though.
How Do I Find Out If I’m Enrolled in a Grandfathered Plan?
If you want to know more about your coverage, it is best ask your insurance company or your employer’s human resource department about the status of your plan. If your employer is currently offering a grandfather plan, they are required to release a notice to you annually if they are offering benefits through a grandfathered medical plan.
Please contact our office for more information regarding if your current plan is considered “grandfathered” or for more information on ACA.