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The Affordable Care Act (“ACA”), introduced in 2014 the Transitional Reinsurance Fee (“Fee”) in an effort to fund reinsurance payments to health insurance issuers that cover high-risk individuals in the individual market and to stabilize insurance premiums in the market for the 2014 through 2016 years. The Fee has also been instituted to pay administrative costs related to the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program.
BACKGROUND ON TRANSITIONAL REINSURANCE PROGRAM
The ACA established a transitional reinsurance program to provide payments to health insurance issuers that cover high risk individuals in an attempt to evenly spread the financial risk of issuers. The program is designed to provide issuers with greater payment stability as insurance market reforms are implemented and the state-based health insurance exchanges/marketplaces facilitate increased enrollment. It is expected that the program will reduce the uncertainty of insurance risk in the individual market by partially offsetting issuers’ risk associated with high-cost enrollees. In an effort to fund the program, the ACA created the Fee which is a temporary fee that is assessed on health insurance issuers and plan sponsors of self-funded health plans. The Fee is applicable for the 2014, 2015 and 2016 years and is deductible as an ordinary and necessary business expense.
The Fee is generally applicable to all health insurance plans providing major medical coverage including sponsors of self-insured group health plans. Major medical coverage is defined as health coverage for a broad range of services and treatments, including diagnostic and preventive services, as well as medical and surgical conditions in inpatient, outpatient and emergency room settings. Since COBRA continuation coverage generally qualifies as major medical coverage, the Fee will also apply in this instance. It does not, however, apply to employer provided major medical coverage that is secondary to Medicare.
The Fee, as currently structured, does not apply to various other types of plans including (but not limited to) health savings accounts (H.S.A.s), employee assistance plans (EAP) or wellness programs that do not provide major medical coverage, health reimbursement arrangements integrated with a group health plan (HRA), health flexible spending accounts (FSA) and coverage that consists of only excepted benefits (e.g. stand-alone dental and vision).
AMOUNT OF THE FEE
The Fee for the 2015 benefit year is equal to $44 per covered life. It is expected that the Fee for the 2015 benefit year will generate approximately $8 billion in revenue. The Fee for the 2016 year is expected to be $27 per covered life and will raise approximately $5 billion in revenue. Thereafter, the Fee is set to expire and no longer be applicable. The fee for 2014 was $63 per covered life.
REPORTING THE NUMBER OF COVERED LIVES AND PAYING THE FEE
The 2015 ACA Transitional Reinsurance Program Annual Enrollment and Contributions Submission Form will be available on www.pay.gov on October 1, 2015. The form for 2014 is also available on this website. Please note there is a separate form for each benefit year. For the 2015 year, the number of covered lives must be reported to the Department no later than November 16, 2015. The Department will then notify reporting organizations no later than December 15, 2015 the amount of the fee that will be due and payable.
As with the 2014 benefit year, the Department of Health and Human Services has given contributing entities two different options to make the payment. Under the first option, the first portion of the Fee ($33 per covered life) is due and payable no later than January 15, 2016 (30 days after issuance of the notice from the Department). This portion of the Fee will cover reinsurance payments and administrative expenses. The second portion of the Fee ($11 per covered life) will cover Treasury’s administrative costs associated with the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program and will be due no later than November 15, 2016.
Under the second payment option, contributing entities can opt to pay the full amount ($44 per covered life) by January 15, 2016.
As the number of covered lives is due to be reported no later than November 16th of this year, employers should review their types of health coverage and determine which plans are subject to the Fee. Employers that have fully insured plans should be on the lookout for potential increased premiums as the insurance carrier is responsible to report and pay the Fee on behalf of the plan in these instances. Those with self funded medical coverage need to be sure to report and pay the fe
The deadline for submitting the required information and scheduling the requirement payment, which must be done through www.pay.gov is November 15, 2014.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides for a transitional reinsurance program to help stabilize premiums for coverage in the individual health insurance marketplace during the first 3 years of operation (2014-2016). The program is designed to primarily transfer funds from the group market to the individual market, where high risk individuals are more likely to be covered.
Payments under the reinsurance program are funded by “contributions” (aka fees) payable by health insurance carriers for fully funded groups and third party administrators on behalf of self-insured group health plans. However, under ACA regulations, the self insured group is ultimately responsible for the payment.
The transitional reinsurance fee requirement applies on a per capita basis with respect to each individual covered by a plan that is subject to the fee. The total amount of the fee for 2014 is $63 per covered life and will decrease to $44 per covered life in 2015. The amount of the fee in 2016 has not yet been established by CMS, but will be lower than the 2015 amount. The fee applies to major medical coverage, retiree medical coverage, and COBRA coverage. Plans that are not subject to the reinsurance fee include FSAs, HSAs, Dental & Vision coverage, coverage that fails to provide minimum value, and EAP programs to name a few.
The transitional reinsurance fee is imposed on the “contributing entity”, defined as an insurer/carrier for fully-insured coverage or the group for self insured coverage. Third -party administrators (TPAs), administrative service only entities (ASO) and others may submit on behalf of the contributing entity, though CMS has specified that the TPA or ASO is not required by law to do so.
Because the fee is imposed on the self insured plan and not the plan sponsor, plan assets may be used to pay the assessment/fee. The IRS has also noted that plan sponsors can treat the fee as an ordinary and necessary business expense for tax purposes.
The term covered lives includes everyone under the plan, including spouses, dependents, and retirees. CMS has named several options for counting covered lives, depending on if the plan is fully insured or self funded. The methods of counting covered lives for the reinsurance fee are similar to, but not exactly the same, as the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) count methods. A full description of each counting method can be found on the CMS website here.
Regardless of the counting method chosen, plans must maintain documentation of the count, including all materials provided by TPAs in arriving at the figure, for at least 10 years. CMS may audit a plan to assess its compliance with the program requirements and it will be crucial to be able to produce this information.
The entire reinsurance fee process takes place on www.pay.gov. This process is separate from the Health Insurance Oversight System (HIOS) which is used, for example, to obtain a Health Plan Identifier (HPID). The applicable form became available on October 24, 2014. While this leaves somewhat limited time for plan sponsors to submit the applicable form and schedule the fee by the November 15, 2014 deadline, CMS has yet to issue guidance that the submission date will be delayed.
In order to successfully complete the reinsurance fee submission, plan sponsors (or their representatives) need to:
After registering on Pay.gov, the submitter will select the Transitional Reinsurance program Annual Enrollment and Contribution Submission Form. The form requires basic company and contact info, payment type, benefit year, and the annual enrollment count. After the information is entered on the form, plan sponsors will need to upload their supporting documentation CSV file. After the enrollment and supporting documentation is submitted, the form will auto-calculate the amount owed. Plans then need to schedule payment(s) for this amount . The form cannot be submitted without payment information. Plans can choose to remit payment for the entire benefit year once (the full $63 per covered life) or plans can submit two separate payments for the year. If the separate payment method is used, the first payment ($52.50 per covered life) is due by January 15, 2015 and the second payment ($10.50 per covered life) is due by November 15, 2015. Regardless of the option chose, all payments MUST be scheduled by November 15, 2014.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently updated the Code Set Rules. The Code Set rules are part of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act’s (HIPPA’s) Administrative Simplification Provisions. These rules create uniform electronic standards for common health plan administrative processes. Requiring health care providers and other stakeholders to use the same data formats for common transactions simplifies certain administrative aspects of providing and paying for health care.
Under the latest rules, self funded employers will need to apply for a Health Plan Identifier (HPID). Most employers will have to apply by November 5, 2014. This number will be used to ensure employers comply with certain Code Set rules requirements.
The Code Set Rules have affected covered entities for a number of years. However, certain aspects of these rules were not enforced in the past. In order to promote efficient health coverage, health care reform includes provisions to ensure health care stakeholders are complying with specific transaction and code set requirements.
Review of the HIPAA Code Set Rules
The final HIPAA Transaction and Code regulations published in August 2000 applied to most health plans as of October 16, 2003. They require covered entities conducting certain transactions electronically to use specific standards and code sets. Covered entities include:
Most of the applicable transactions occur between the health plan and health care providers covering areas like claims submission and payment, eligibility, and authorizations/referrals, however the enrollment and disenrollment transaction process generally involves the employer and the health plan.
New Requirements for a HPID for Self Funded Plans
The Code Set rules require all parties involved in the health care system to use an identifying number. Large group health plans (plans with an annual cost of $5 million or more) need to register for their Health Plan Identifier (HPID) number by November 5, 2014. Small group health plans (plans with an annual cost of less than $5 million) will have an extra year to obtain an HPID. Annual cost is based on paid claims before stop loss recoveries and excluding administrative costs and stop loss premiums.
Insurance carriers will likely apply for the 10-digit HPID number for all of their fully- insured group health plans. Employers will have to apply for their 10-digit HPID for self-funded medical plans. The health plan needs to use the HPID number for any of the standard transactions the Code Set rules cover.
Every health plan considered a covered entity must obtain an HPID. The regulations include delineations of group health plans including Controlling Health Plans (a health plan that controls its own business activities, actions and policies) and Subhealth Plan (a health plan whose business activities, actions or policies are directed by a Controlling Health Plan).
Employers are not really sure how the relationship between controlling health plans and subhealth plans would apply to employer-sponsored health plans and are awaiting further clarification from HHS on this issue.
All health plans, regardless of size, must use their HPIDs in standard transactions by November 7, 2016. A “standard transaction” is a CMS menu of transactions, like a claim payment, that must be coded with an HPID.
Employer must provide information about their organizations and health plans when they register for the HPID electronically. More information on applying for an HPID is available here.
Certification Requirements for Compliance with Standard Transaction Rules
Health plans must also verify with HHS that they comply with the Code Set rules. Health plans have been subject to these rules for almost a decade, however there has been little to no oversight on compliance with the common formats. HHS is now requiring a certification showing that the plan is using the standard formats. Initially, the certification will only be done on a few of the required transactions.
The health plan must first certify that they meet the Code Set requirements for eligibility, claim status and EFT and remittance advice transactions. Plans have two different options to certify they are complying. Both involve having specific vendors certify the plan uses the proper transaction formats. The two options are as follows:
The HIPAA Credential option involves testing the required transactions with at least three trading partners. Those three partners have to represent at least 30% of transactions conducted with providers. If it does not constitute 30%, then the plan must confirm it has successfully traded with at least 25%.
The Phase III Core Seal will require the Controlling Health Plan to test transactions with an authorized testing vendor.
All certifications will be filed with HHS. The first one will be due by December 31, 2015. Health insurance carriers and Third Party Administrators will most likely provide the certifications for employer-sponsored health plans, but employers will still need more details on the filing.
The second certification applies to other transactions the Code Set rules cover. Specifically, the second certification applies to claims information, enrollment, premium payments, claims attachments, and authorizations or referrals. HHS has not issued any guidance on these certifications yet. These second certifications are also due by December 31, 2015. However, because of the lack of specific guidance, it is very likely this due date may be delayed.
To register for an HPID, employers need to take the following steps:
1. Determine when the plan must obtain an HPID
2. If your plan if fully insured, contact your insurance carrier. It appears most insurance carriers will apply for the HPID for fully insured plans.
3. If your plan is self-funded, schedule time over the next several months to register for an HPID for your health plan. The registration is a CMS-managed online application process. The regulations estimate that it will take 20 -30 minutes to complete the application. Sponsors will be directed to an online enumeration system titled: Health Plan and Other Entity Enumeration System (HPOES).