What Could Happen If The Administration Stops Cost-Sharing Reduction Payments To Insurers?

Has the President's recent threat to slash Cost-Sharing Reduction Payments for insurers left you worried about your healthcare costs? Find out how the loss of Cost-Sharing Reduction Payments will impact your health insurance in this informative column by Timothy Jost from Health Affairs.

August 4 Update: Voluntary Insurer Reporting Of Catastrophic Coverage Offered Through Exchange Continued

On August 3, 2017, the Internal Revenue Service released Notice 2017-41  informing insurers that for 2017, as for 2015 and 2016, they would be encouraged but not required to report coverage under catastrophic plans in which individuals were enrolled through an exchange. Insurers and employers are generally required to file 1095-B or 1095-C forms with the IRS, and to provide these forms to individuals whom they cover, documenting that the individuals have minimum essential coverage as required by the individual mandate.

Insurers are not, however, required to report qualified health plan coverage provided through the exchanges, because the exchanges themselves file 1095-A forms documenting QHP coverage and provide these forms to enrollees. But catastrophic health plans are not QHPs, so exchanges do not report catastrophic coverage either.

The IRS proposed regulations in 2016 to require insurers to report catastrophic coverage issued through the exchange and thus to fill this gap.  These rules have not yet been finalized however.  In the meantime, the IRS has encouraged insurers to report catastrophic coverage issued through an exchange voluntarily. The guidance extends this policy for another year. Insurers that voluntarily report catastrophic coverage will not be subject to penalties with respect to returns and statements reporting this coverage.

Original Post

Although the decision of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to allow attorneys general from 17 states and the District of Columbia to join the House v. Price cost-sharing reduction (CSR) litigation as parties complicates President Trump’s ability to simply stop the CSR payments, rumors continue that he is preparing to do so. The CSR payments are made monthly; the next installment is due on August 21, 2017. If the administration intends not to make the August payment, it must announce its decision soon.

Changes to qualified health plan (QHP) applications in the federally facilitated exchange (FFE) are due on August 16, 2017, as are final rates for single risk pool plans including QHPs. Final contracts with insurers for providing QHP coverage through the FFE must be signed by September 27. If the Trump administration is going to defund the CSRs, now is the time it will do it.

The back story on the CSR issue can be found in my post on July 31, while the intervention decision is analyzed in my post on August 1. This post focuses on issues that will need to be resolved going forward if the Trump administration decides to defund the CSRs.

The Choices Insurers Would Face If CSR Payments Were Ended

First, insurers would have to decide whether to continue to participate in the exchanges. Those in the FFE have a contractual right to drop participation for the rest of 2017, but how exactly they would do this would depend on state law, and would probably require 90 days notice. Insurers would also not be able to terminate the policies of individuals covered through the exchange, although once the insurers left the exchange premium tax credits would cease and many policyholders would drop coverage. Insurers that tried to leave immediately would likely suffer reputational damage, and those that could financially would likely try to hold on until the end of the year.

Some insurers might well decide that the government is an unreliable partner and give up on the exchanges for 2018. Indeed, some would conclude that the individual market is too risky to play in at all. The individual market makes up a small part of the business of large insurers; even though it has become more profitable in the recent past, some insurers might conclude that the premium increases that would be needed to make up for the loss of the CSRs would drive healthy enrollees out of the individual market. Rather than deal with a deteriorating risk pool, they might leave the individual market entirely (although they would probably have to give 180 days notice to do so.)

Insurers that decide to stay would have to charge rates that would allow them to survive without the $10 billion dollars the CSR payments would provide. They would need to raise premiums significantly to accomplish this. How they did so would depend on guidance that they got from their state department of insurance or possibly from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The California Experience

On August 1, 2017, Covered California announced its 2018 rates. The California state-based marketplace is an example of how the Affordable Care Act can work in a state that fully supports it and has a big enough market to form a balanced risk pool. For 2018, the average weighted rate increase in California is 12.5 percent, of which 2.8 percent is attributable to the end of the moratorium on the federal health insurance tax. Consumers can switch to plans that will limit their rate change to 3.3 percent in the same metal tier. All 11 health insurers in California are returning to the market for 2018 (although one insurer, Anthem, is leaving 16 of the 19 regions in which it participated for 2017) and 82 percent of consumers will be able to choose between three or more insurers. About 83 percent of hospitals in California participate in at least one plan.

Covered California instructed its insurers to file alternate rates that would go into effect if the Trump administration abandons the CSR payments. The insurers were instructed to load the extra cost onto their silver (70 percent actuarial value) plans, since the CSRs only apply to silver plans. The alternative rates filed by the insurers project that if the CSRs are not funded, they would have to essentially double their premium increases, hiking premiums by an additional 12.4 percent.

Virtually all of this increase would be absorbed by increased federal premium tax credits for those with incomes below 400 percent of the federal poverty level. As the premium of the benchmark second-lowest cost silver plan increased, so would the tax credits. A Covered California study concluded that the premium tax credit subsidy in California would increase by about a third if the CSR subsidies are defunded.

Bronze, gold, and platinum plan premiums would not be affected by the silver plan load. As the premium tax credits increased, many more enrollees might be able to get bronze plans for free, and gold plans would become competitive with silver plans in price. More people would likely be eligible for premium tax credits as people higher up the income scale found that premiums cost a higher percentage of their household income.

Consumers who are not eligible for premium tax credits would have to pay the full premium increase themselves. Covered California has suggested, however, that insurers load the premium increase only onto silver plans in the exchange, since CSRs are only available in the exchange. Insurers would likely encourage their enrollees who are in silver plans in the exchange to move to similar products off the exchange that are much more affordable. Bronze, gold, and platinum plans would cost more or less the same on or off the exchange.

Other States Would Likely Make Different Choices Than California’s

It is likely that not all states would follow California’s lead. If state departments of insurance do not allow insurers to increase their premiums, more insurers would leave the individual market. If state departments require insurers to load the CSR surcharge onto all metal-level plans, both on and off the exchange, bronze, gold, and platinum plans would be more expensive and individual insurance would become much more costly for all consumers who are not eligible for premium tax credits. If insurers leave the market or consumers drop coverage, more consumers would end up using care they cannot afford, increasing medical debt and the uncompensated care burden of providers, and of hospitals in particular.

Some insurers in other states have likely already loaded a substantial surcharge onto their 2018 premiums in anticipation of CSR defunding and of other problems, such as uncertainty about the Trump administration enforcing the individual mandate. If insurers in fact profit from excessive rates, consumers might eventually receive medical loss ratio rebates, but 2018 rebates would not be paid out until late in 2019, if the requirement is still on the books by then.

Other Ramifications Of Ending CSR Payments To Insurers

CSR defunding could have other effects as well. Insurers have been reimbursed each month for CSRs based on an estimation of what they are paying out to actually reduce cost sharing. Each year the insurers must reconcile the payments they have received with those they were actually due. Insurers were supposed to have filed their reconciliation data for 2016 by June 2, 2017, and were supposed to be paid any funds due them, or to refund overpayments, in August. Reconciliation payments may also be due in some situations for 2015. If the administration cuts off CSR payments, it could conceivably cut off reconciliation payments as well.

Finally, defunding of CSRs would likely have an effect on risk adjustment payments as well. The risk adjustment methodology has been set for 2018 in the 2018 payment rule. It would likely not be amended for 2018 in light of the CSR defunding. Defunding would increase the statewide average premium on which risk adjustment payments are based. This would generally exaggerate the effects that risk adjustment would otherwise have. In particular, insurers with heavy bronze plan enrollment would end up paying more in, while insurers with more gold or platinum plans might receive higher payments.

Looking Forward

President Trump claims to see the CSR payments as a “bailout” to insurers, which surely they are not. They are a payment for services rendered, much like a Medicare payment to a Medicare Advantage plan. The effects of defunding would reverberate throughout out health care system, likely causing problems far beyond those identified in this post.

Fortunately, Senators Alexander (R-TN) and Murray (D-WA), the chair and ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, have announced that they will begin hearings on a bipartisan approach to health reform when the Senate returns in September, and funding of the CSR payments for at least a year seems to be at the top of their list. A bipartisan group of House members has also called for funding the CSRs. And pressure to fund the CSRs continues from the outside, with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners calling for it again last week. It is to be hoped that President Trump will not take steps that would sabotage the individual market and that a solution can quickly be found to the CSR issue that will bring stability to the market going forward.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Jost T. (2017 August 2). What could happen if the administration stops cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers? [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://healthaffairs.org/blog/2017/08/02/what-could-happen-if-the-administration-stops-cost-sharing-reduction-payments-to-insurers/


Compliance Recap July 2017

July was a relatively quiet month in the employee benefits world, despite the U.S. Senate's release of two bills in its attempt to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).

First, the U.S. Senate revised its Better Care Reconciliation Act and declined to vote on its revision. Then the U.S. Senate released its Health Care Freedom Act and voted on it. The Health Care Freedom Act failed to pass the U.S. Senate.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) launched an electronic form 300A that employers use to report work-related injuries and accidents. Two courts issued decisions regarding ACA accommodation and website accessibility. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released a revised version of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, opened the H-2B Temporary Nonagricultural Worker program to an additional 15,000 workers for 2017, and began issuing redesigned Green Cards and EADs as part of the Next Generation Secure Identification Document Project.

The U.S. District Court, which issued a nationwide preliminary injunction against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to prohibit HHS from enforcing portions of the ACA's Section 1557, remanded the case in part to HHS for reconsideration of the regulation.

UBA Updates

UBA released three new advisors in July:

·         COBRA Notices

·         Determining COBRA Premiums for Fully Insured and Self-Funded Health Plans

·         ERISA's "Church Plan" Exception

UBA updated existing guidance:

·         OSHA's Final Rule on Electronic Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses

U.S. Senate Releases Revision of Better Care Reconciliation Act

On July 13, 2017, the U.S. Senate released a revised draft of its Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) bill. The U.S. Senate released the original draft of the BCRA on June 22, 2017, which would substitute the House's House Resolution 1628, a reconciliation bill aimed at "repealing and replacing" the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The House bill was titled the "American Health Care Act of 2017" (AHCA).

The revised draft BCRA proposes to affect employer-sponsored plans in a few ways:

·         Allow health savings account (HSA) funds to be used to pay for the medical expenses of children under age 27 and to pay for high-deductible health plans' (HDHPs) premiums that are not otherwise covered by tax credits, deductibles, or exclusions.

·         Make HDHPs ineligible for HSAs if the HDHPs cover abortions except where necessary to save the mother's life or in cases of rape or incest.

·         Allow professional employer organizations to sponsor association plans.

On July 18, 2017, the U.S. Senate declined to vote on the revised BCRA after it determined that it didn't have enough votes to pass the bill.

On July 28, 2017, the U.S. Senate voted on the Health Care Freedom Act to repeal the ACA's individual and employer mandates and temporarily repeal the medical device tax. The bill failed to pass.

Employers with group health plans should continue to monitor progress in Washington, D.C., and should not stop adhering to any provisions of the ACA in the interim, or begin planning to comply with provisions in either the AHCA or revised BCRA.

OSHA Launches Electronic Form 300A

In 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published a rule entitled "Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses" which issued sweeping changes to the way certain employers were required to report work-related injuries and accidents. Employers with at least 10 employees at a single site have always been required to maintain and annually post a Form 300A log. Among the changes were that "high risk" employers with at least 20 employees (see the complete list atwww.osha.gov/recordkeeping/NAICScodesforelectronicsubmission.pdf) and all employers with 250 or more employees in a single physical location were required to file their report electronically. The original due date for filing 2016 data was July 1, 2017.

On June 28, 2017, OSHA proposed delaying the compliance date until December 1, 2017, "to provide the new administration an opportunity to review the new electronic reporting requirements prior to their implementation and allow affected entities sufficient time to familiarize themselves with the electronic reporting system, which will not be available until August 1."

OSHA will release the electronic Injury Tracking Application (ITA). Three options have been made available for submission:

1.     Users may manually enter data into a web form.

2.     Users may upload a CSV file to process single or multiple establishments at the same time.

3.     Users of automated recordkeeping systems will have the ability to transmit data electronically via an API (application programming interface).

OSHA estimates that it will take employers 10 minutes to create an account. Establishments may no longer submit paper reports. Future plans include an interface for entering data from a mobile device.

Technology is the New Frontier with ADA Accommodation

Website accessibility has become a hot topic in the world of ADA accommodation. Recently, a Florida federal judge handed down a trial verdict finding that grocery chain Winn-Dixie had violated Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by having a website that was inaccessible to a blind plaintiff. Shortly thereafter, a federal judge in the Central District of California allowed another blind plaintiff to continue a case against Hobby Lobby for failing to "provide full and equal enjoyment of goods and services offered by its physical stores by not maintaining a fully accessible website."

Title III relates to public accommodation (private and non-profit business) and could impact any business offering goods and services through a website, which, in this era of e-commerce is far-reaching. Further, Title I of the ADA relates to employment, so would impact online application processes and career web pages.

In the Winn-Dixie case, the court recognized Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 as the website standard. WCAG are guidelines developed by a private group of accessibility experts that have been used to support accommodation initiatives. Until this case, WCAG had not been referenced by the court as the de facto legal standard.

Regarding Title I employment accommodation, the U.S. Department of Labor recently identified the Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT) as the source for employers who want to ensure that their workplace technology is accessible to all employees and job applicants. In particular, the "Accessible Technology Action Steps: A Guide for Employers" was recommended as a resource.

Definitive guidelines have traditionally been elusive in the amorphous arena of public accommodations within the requirements of the ADA. Businesses would be well advised to review their accessibility through these validated resources.

Immigration Updates: I-9, H-2B Visas, Green Cards

I-9 Updates

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released a revised version of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, on July 17, 2017. Employers can use this revised version or continue using Form I-9 with a revision date of 11/14/16 through September 17, 2017. On September 18, 2017, employers must use the revised form with a revision date of 07/17/17. Revisions include changes to the instructions and revisions to the List of Acceptable Documents, including:

·         All the certifications of report of birth issued by the Department of State (Form FS-545, Form DS-1350, and Form FS-240) were combined into List C, number 2.

·         All List C documents were renumbered, except the Social Security card. For example, the employment authorization document issued by the Department of Homeland Security on List C changed from number 8 to number 7.

·         Consular Report of Birth Abroad (Form FS-240) was added to List C. Employers completing Form I-9 on a computer will be able to select Form FS-240 from the drop-down menus available in List C of Sections 2 and 3. E-Verify users will also be able to select Form FS-240 when creating a case for an employee who has presented this document for Form I-9.

Increase in H-2B Visas

USCIS has opened the H-2B Temporary Nonagricultural Worker program to anadditional 15,000 workers for 2017. The H-2B Temporary Nonagricultural Worker program was designed to serve U.S. businesses unable to find a sufficient number of qualified U.S. workers to perform nonagricultural work of a temporary nature. To qualify for the additional visas, petitioners must attest, under penalty of perjury, that their business is likely to suffer irreparable harm if it cannot employ H-2B nonimmigrant workers during fiscal year (FY) 2017.

New Green Cards Issued

USCIS has begun issuing redesigned Green Cards and Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) as part of the Next Generation Secure Identification Document Project. The new cards feature enhanced graphics and fraud-resistant features. Enhancements include:

·         The card holder's photo on both sides of the card

·         Unique graphic images and color palette

·         Holographic images

Cards will no longer display the individual's signature, nor will they have an optical stripe on the back.

Court Remands ACA Section 1557 Case to HHS

ACA Section 1557 provides that individuals shall not be excluded from participation, denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any health program or activity which receives federal financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability.

In May 2016, HHS issued a final rule implementing Section 1557, which took effect on July 18, 2016.

Eight states and three faith-based private health care providers filed a lawsuit to challenge HHS' authority under the ACA to issue regulations that interpret sex discrimination as forbidding discrimination based on gender identity and termination of pregnancy. The lawsuit also asserted that the regulations violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as applied to them.

On December 31, 2016, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued a nationwide preliminary injunction prohibiting enforcement of the rule as it prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity or pregnancy termination.

On July 10, 2017, the District Court stayed the case and remanded it in part to HHS for reconsideration of the rule. The injunction remains in place.

Question of the Month

Q. Who must be counted under Form 5500's 100-participant rule?

A. Generally, small unfunded, insured, and combination unfunded/insured welfare plans are exempt from the Form 5500 filing requirement. To qualify for the exemption, a plan must cover "fewer than 100 participants at the beginning of the plan year."

Employees who are covered participants are counted. All former employees who are COBRA qualified beneficiaries are counted. Non-employees (covered spouses and dependent children) are not counted.

Only covered participants are counted. To determine when a participant is covered, the plan sponsor would look to the earlier of:

·         The date that the plan document states that participation begins.

·         The date when the individual becomes eligible to receive a benefit.

·         The date when the individual makes a voluntary or mandatory plan contribution.

To download the full recap click here.


DOL Asks for MHPAEA Related Comments; Clarifies Eating Disorder Benefit Requirements

Great article from our partner, United Benefit Advisors (UBA) by Danielle Capilla.

Earlier this month, the Department of Labor (DOL) provided an informational FAQ relating to the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) and the 21st Century Cures Act (Cures Act). This is the DOL's 38th FAQ on implementing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) provisions and related regulations. The DOL is requesting comments on a draft model form for participants to use to request information regarding nonquantitative treatment limitations, and confirms that benefits for eating disorders must comply with the MHPAEA. Comments are due by September 13, 2017.

The MHPAEA amended various laws and regulations to provide increased parity between mental health and substance use disorder benefits and medical/surgical benefits. Generally, financial requirements such as coinsurance and copays and treatment limitations for mental health and substance use disorder benefits cannot be more restrictive than requirements for medical and surgical benefits. Regulations also provide that a plan or issuer may not impose a nonquantitative treatment limitation (NQTL) unless it is comparable and no more stringent than limitations on medical and surgical benefits in the same classification.

On December 13, 2016, President Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act into law. The Cures Act has numerous components including directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Secretary of Labor, and Secretary of the Treasury (collectively, the Agencies) to issue compliance program guidance, share findings with each other, and issue guidance to group health plans and health insurance issuers to help them comply with the mental health parity rules.

The Agencies must issue guidance to group health plans and health insurance issuers; the guidance must provide information and methods that plans and issuers can use when they are required to disclose information to participants, beneficiaries, contracting providers, or authorized representatives to ensure the plans' and issuers' compliance with the mental health parity rules.

The Agencies must issue the compliance program guidance and guidance to group health plans and health plan issuers within 12 months after the date that the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Reform Act of 2016 was enacted, or by December 13, 2017.

In the June 2017 FAQ, the DOL reiterated its request for comments on the following questions, originally asked in the fall of 2016:

  1. Whether issuance of model forms that could be used by participants and their representatives to request information with respect to various NQTLs would be helpful and, if so, what content the model forms should include. For example, is there a specific list of documents, relating to specific NQTLs, that a participant or his or her representative should request?
  2. Do different types of NQTLs require different model forms? For example, should there be separate model forms for specific information about medical necessity criteria, fail-first policies, formulary design, or the plan's method for determining usual, customary, or reasonable charges? Should there be a separate model form for plan participants and other individuals to request the plan's analysis of its MHPAEA compliance?
  3. Whether issuance of model forms that could be used by States as part of their review would be helpful and, if so, what content the model form should include. For example, what specific content should the form include to assist the States in determining compliance with the NQTL standards? Should the form focus on specific classifications or categories of services? Should the form request information on particular NQTLs?
  4. What other steps can the Departments take to improve the scope and quality of disclosures or simplify or otherwise improve processes for requesting disclosures under existing law in connection with mental health/substance misuse disorder MH/SUD benefits?
  5. Are there specific steps that could be taken to improve State market conduct examinations and/or Federal oversight of compliance by plans and issuers?

The DOL is also asking for input on a draft model form that participants, enrollees, or representatives could use to request information from their health plan or issuer regarding NQTLs that may affect their MH/SUD benefits.

The Cures Act also requires that benefits for eating disorders be consistent with the requirements of MHPAEA. The DOL clarified that the MHPAEA applies to any benefits a plan or issuer may offer for treatment of an eating disorder.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Capilla D. (2017 June 28). DOL ask for MHPAEA related comments; clarifies eating disorder benefit requirements [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/dol-asks-for-mhpaea-related-comments-clarifies-eating-disorder-benefit-requirements


How Rising Healthcare Costs are Changing the Retirement Landscape

Has rising the rising cost of healthcare impacted  your plans for retirement?  Here is a great article by Paula Aven Gladych from Employee Benefit News on how healthcare is reshaping the way people are planning their retirement.

It’s hard enough getting employees to save for their retirement. It’s even harder to get them to think about how much they need to save for medical expenses in retirement.

“Most Americans don’t think about what the medical component will be for them,” says Robert Grubka, president of employee benefits at New York-based Voya Financial. “They often think that Medicare and government-provided healthcare is enough and what people quickly find out is, it is helpful but it doesn’t mean it’s enough.” When people think about their retirement plan, the medical piece is “one of the most surprising aspects of it,” he says.

But talking about managing healthcare costs during post-work years is now a vital element of retirement planning. And it’s one employers need to consider, especially as new statistics shed light on the seriousness of the issue.

As a person’s retirement savings shrinks in retirement, their medical expenses continue to increase, according to Voya Financial’s report “Playing the long game – Understanding how healthcare costs can impact your retirement readiness.” Healthcare costs rose 6.5% in 2017, but inflation only went up 2.4%, Voya found.

“The rapid rise of healthcare costs could have a large impact on quality of life in retirement,” according to the report. Forty-two percent of pre- and post-retirees say that healthcare is their biggest concern, especially since nearly half of retirees or their spouses experience a serious or chronic health problem.

Meanwhile, Medicare data finds that those in their 70s spend about $7,566 per person in healthcare costs annually. That figure more than doubles to $16,145 by the time a person reaches age 96. According to Voya, Medicare will only cover about 60% of all retirement healthcare costs, which means people need to figure out a way to cover that other 40%.

The Employee Benefit Research Institute estimates that the average couple will need $259,000 to cover their out-of-pocket medical expenses in retirement. That figure includes premiums and costs related to all Medicare plans and the cost of supplemental insurance. When asked how much they should stock away for medical expenses, 69% of baby boomers and 66% of retirees thought they needed less than $100,000.

As the retirement industry has shifted away from defined benefit pension plans to defined contribution plans, employers have tried to compensate for some of the missing perks of having a pension plan. That includes offering options like life insurance, disability insurance, accident insurance, critical illness insurance or a hospital confinement indemnity.

A 2014 report by the Council for Disability Awareness found that more than 214,000 employers were offering long-term disability insurance plans to their employees in 2013, a slight increase from the previous year.

The other component that is relatively new is the high-deductible health plan that usually comes with a health savings account. The money saved in an HSA can be used for medical expenses in retirement if a person doesn’t use up their balance every year. Any extra funds are invested, just like they would be in a typical retirement plan.

High-deductible health plans make the plan participant more responsible for how those health care dollars are spent. It also has “sped up the recognition of the healthcare issue,” Grubka says.

According to the 2016 Employer Health Benefits Survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 29% of covered workers are enrolled in a high-deductible plan with a savings option. Over the past two years, enrollment in these high-deductible plans increased 8 percentage points as enrollment in PPOs dropped 10 percentage points, the report found.

Many times, individuals must pay out most or all of their deductible at once, which could be $2,500 for an individual or $5,000 for a family. That’s when people start taking loans from their retirement plan to help cover costs.

That’s why some of these ancillary products, like critical illness or disability insurance, are so important.

“It is so people can get through the chunky expenses and not get to the point where they have to tap their savings or their retirement plan,” Grubka says.

It’s critical that employees try and determine what all of their expenses will be in retirement. Individuals must try and determine how long they will live, by looking at their family history and making an educated guess. Then they should calculate their projected monthly Social Security payment by setting up an account with the Social Security Administration. They should then add up their expected monthly living expenses like rent/mortgage, groceries and utilities and any healthcare expenses that are not covered by Medicare to come up with a target number.

They should base how much they set aside for retirement on that figure.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Gladyech P.  (2017 July 4). How rising healthcare costs are changing the retirement landscape [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitnews.com/news/how-rising-healthcare-costs-are-impacting-retirement-planning


BREAKING: Health Care Bill Moves to Debate on Senate Floor with 51-50 vote

In case you haven't heard, the motion to debate a version of the Health Care Bill after multiple renditions that has been dragging it's way through congress and stalled in the Senate has just been successfully passed with a narrow vote of 51-50 in favor with Vice President Pence casting the tie-breaking vote . The bill has a long road ahead and likely a vast number of revisions.

You can keep an eye on relevant news from our Navigator page right here on our own website.  We know it is overwhelming to try to keep up with all of the news from all of the disparate sources. Our Navigator resource simply works to curate content from a variety of trusted, non-partisan sites across the internet and bring them to a central location to provide you a trusted place to stay-up-to-date on Health Care news at a glance.

 


Source: Wall Street Journal, Daniel Nasaw,Michelle Hackman

Access Live Updates on the Motion Here: http://www.wsj.com/livecoverage/senate-obamacare-repeal-and-replace-vote

Moments ago:

Vice President Mike Pence just broke the 50-50 tie. The motion to proceed passes and the Senate will now begin debate on a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

With the motion passed, Senators will now proceed to 20 hours of debate on several proposals repealing parts of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, including their replacement package and a separate bill repealing the law with a two-year delay.

They are expected to debate numerous amendments – not counted toward the 20 hours – including proposals put forward by Democrats....


 

 

 


Revised GOP Healthcare Bill Still Good for Employers

Has the uncertainty surrounding the BCRA left you worried about your company's healthcare plan? Here is an interesting article by Victoria Finkle from Employee Benefit News illustrating all the positives the BCRA  will bring to employers and their company's healthcare program.

The latest version of the Senate Republican healthcare bill contains some significant changes, but provisions impacting employer-sponsored plans remained largely untouched.

The plan, unveiled on Thursday, retains a number of important changes for employers that were included in an earlier draft of the legislation made public last month. GOP lawmakers have been working for months on an effort to undo large swaths of the Affordable Care Act.

“Generally, the changes that were applied didn’t significantly change the dynamics of the Senate bill as it relates to large employers,” says Michael Thompson, president and chief executive of the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions, a nonprofit network of business health coalitions.

Employer groups have been supportive of several major provisions highlighted in the earlier version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act that remain in the new proposal. Those include measures to remove the penalties associated with the employer mandate and a delay to the Cadillac tax for high-cost plans.

The latest Senate bill also retains important changes to health savings accounts that, for example, allow employees to allocate more funds into the accounts and that permit the money to be used on over-the-counter medications. It also reduces the penalty associated with redrawing funds from the account for non-qualified medical spending.

Providing more flexibility around the use of HSAs — tax-advantaged accounts that accompany high-deductible health plans — benefits employers and employees alike, says Chatrane Birbal, senior adviser for government relations at the Society for Human Resource Management.

“As healthcare costs arise, more employers are embracing high-deductible plans and this is a good way for employees to plan ahead for their medical expenses,” she says.

There is one small fix related to health savings accounts that made it into the revised draft, explains James Gelfand, senior vice president of health policy for the ERISA Industry Committee.

The updated language now permits out-of-pocket medical expenses for adult children up to 26-years-old who remain on a parent’s health plan to be paid for out of the primary account holder’s HSA. There were previously limitations on use of those funds for those over 18 who remained on a parent’s plan, based on Internal Revenue Service guidelines.

“One of the little tweaks they’ve put in to improve the bill is changing the IRS code to say, actually, yes, an adult dependent still counts and can use an HSA to help save on their healthcare costs,” he says.

Experts note, however, that a key change in the new bill related to HSAs — the ability to use the pre-tax money to pay insurance premiums — does not appear to apply to employer-based plans.

There are several other provisions in the revised legislation that are likely to be debated by the Senate in coming weeks, but that do not directly impact employers.

One controversial measure, developed by Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah, would allow insurers to offer lower priced, non-ACA-qualified plans in the individual market in addition to plans that meet Obamacare requirements. The latest bill also would provide more funding for the opioid epidemic.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. and Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., meanwhile, announced this week that they are developing an alternative proposal to the one unveiled by Republican leaders. Initial details for the alternative proposal were released on Thursday. The legislation is centered on a strategy to send more federal funding directly to the states through block grants.

“Instead of having a one-size-fits-all solution from Washington, we should return dollars back to the states to address each individual state’s healthcare needs,” Graham said in a statement on Thursday.

Those representing employer-based plans said they have reservations about the Graham and Cassidy proposal.

Gelfand notes that the alternative plan is expected to keep in place many of the taxes stemming from the ACA, such as the Cadillac tax and a tax on branded prescription drugs, and is unlikely to contain some of the BCRA revisions around the use of HSAs.

“It basically provides none of the relief that the BCRA would provide,” he says.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Finkle V. (2017 July 16). Revised GOP healthcare bill still good for employers [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitnews.com/news/revised-gop-healthcare-bill-still-good-for-employers?tag=00000151-16d0-def7-a1db-97f024b50000


4 Ways Employers can Prepare for Healthcare Changes

With all the proposed changes coming to healthcare. Take a look at this article by Mark Johnson from Employee Benefit News and see what you can do to prepare yourself and your employees for that call the changes coming to healthcare.

The new healthcare bill, revealed by U.S. Senate Republicans Thursday, could bring significant changes to organizations and their employees. Granted, there’s a long way to go before any Obamacare replacement legislation is signed. But health insurance is a complex component of running any business, and it’s important that employers start preparing for what might come.

Here are four actions items employers should be addressing now.

1. Create a roadmap. A compliance calendar is a helpful tool in identifying major deadlines. Employers are legally obligated to share health insurance and benefits updates with their employees by certain dates. Employees must be given reasonable notice — typically 30 days prior — of a major change in policy. There will likely be a set date for compliance and specific instructions around notice requirements that accompany the new legislation.

One step to compliance is adhering to benefit notice requirements. Benefit notices (i.e., HIPAA, COBRA, Summary Plan Descriptions, Special Health Care Notices, Health Care Reform, Form 5500 and others) vary by the size of the organization. Other steps can be more involved, such as required changes to plan design (e.g., copays, deductibles and coinsurance), types of services covered and annual and lifetime maximums, among others. Create a compliance calendar that reflects old and new healthcare benefit requirements so you can stay on track.

2. Rally the troops. Managing healthcare compliance spans several departments. Assemble key external and internal stakeholders by department, including HR, finance, payroll and IT.

Update the team on potential changes as healthcare legislation makes its way through Congress so they can prepare and be ready to execute should a new bill be signed. HR is responsible for communicating changes to employees and providing them with information on their plan and benefits. Finance needs to evaluate how changes in the plan will affect the company’s bottom line. Payroll must be aware of how much of an employee’s check to allocate to health insurance each month. In addition, payroll and Human Resources Information Systems (HRIS) are used to track and monitor changes in employee population, which helps employers determine benefit notice and compliance requirements. All departments need to be informed of the modified health insurance plan as soon as possible and on the same page.

3. Get connected. It’s essential to verify information as it’s released, via newsletters, seminars, healthcare carriers, payroll vendors and consultants. These resources can help employers navigate the evolving healthcare landscape. Knowledge of changes will empower an organization to handle them effectively.

4. Evaluate partnerships. There’s no better time for employers to examine their current partners, from an insurance consultant or broker to the accounting firm and legal counsel. An employer’s insurance consultant should be a trusted adviser in working on budgeting and benchmarking the company plan, administering benefits, evaluating plan performance and reporting outcomes. Finding an insurance solution that meets a company’s business goals, as well as its employee’s needs, can be accomplished with a knowledgeable, experienced insurance partner.

Staying ahead of healthcare changes is essential for organizations to have a smooth transition to an updated healthcare plan. Strategic planning, communication among departments and establishing the right partnerships are key. Employers must be proactive in addressing healthcare changes so they are ready when the time comes.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Johnson M. (2017 June 23). 4 ways employers can prepare for healthcare changes [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/5-ways-employers-can-prepare-for-healthcare-changes


Employees Aren't so Sure About Their Benefits Options

Are your employees having a hard time understanding all the benefits that are offered to them? Take a look at this article by Katie Kuehner-Hebert from Benefits Pro and find out the major questions that most employees seem to have about their employee benefits.

Employers have a conundrum: One-fifth of workers regret the health care benefit choices they make, but the same percentage of workers also concede they ignore any written educational materials about benefits their employers provided.

To make matters worse, according to Jellyvision’s 2017 ALEX Benefits Communication Survey, two-thirds don’t like in-person consultations -- not even if it’s within a group or one-on-one with a benefits expert.

So what’s an employer to do?

“The challenge is most people don’t want  ‘education’ on these topics,” says Jellyvision chief executive Amanda Lannert. “No one wakes up with a burning desire to learn about HDHPs. In our experience, people respond best to plain-English communication that feels like they’re talking about benefits with a friend -- if benefits were a thing friends ever talked about.”

The good news is 82 percent of the 2,043 U.S. adults surveyed by Harris Poll say they’re satisfied with their employer’s benefits communication, and 86 percent feel their company has provided them with enough information to make informed decisions. A majority (69 percent) say they personally have spent either “a great deal” or “a lot” of time learning about their company’s benefits offerings.

However, while 89 percent say they generally understand their benefit options, more than a few aren’t too sure about all of the details.

For example, only 59 percent are correct in identifying the full cost of their health care plan, including their contribution and their employer’s contribution, and half (50 percent) say they are not knowledgeable about high-deductible health plans. More than half (54 percent) are unsure whether they can make changes to their insurance during qualified life events, and 43 percent are unclear on where to direct their health insurance questions.

“We think the number one biggest take-away of this entire survey is… employees want your help when choosing their health plans,” the authors write.

Indeed, more than half (55 percent) of all employees whose company offers health insurance say they would like help from their employer when choosing a health plan. Roughly half (49 percent) say the decision-making process is very stressful, and 36 percent feel the open enrollment process at their company is extremely confusing.

Jellyvision’s survey asked respondents to react to a possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act, particularly as it relates to employer-provided health insurance plans, and found a majority (61 percent) don’t think a repeal would affect them personally.

When asked about keeping certain provisions of the ACA, 80 percent say it’s “absolutely essential” or “very important” to keep coverage of preexisting conditions, 78 percent say that about free preventative care, and 67 percent say that about coverage of adult children up to age 26.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Kuehner-Hebert K. (2017 June 22). Employees aren't so sure about their benefits options [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/06/22/employees-arent-so-sure-about-their-benefits-optio


2018 Amounts for HSAs; Retroactive Medicare Coverage Effect on Contributions

Great article from our partner, United Benefit Advisors (UBA) by Danielle Capilla.

IRS Releases 2018 Amounts for HSAs

The IRS released Revenue Procedure 2017-37 that sets the dollar limits for health savings accounts (HSAs) and high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) for 2018.

For calendar year 2018, the annual contribution limit for an individual with self-only coverage under an HDHP is $3,450, and the annual contribution limit for an individual with family coverage under an HDHP is $6,900. How much should an employer contribute to an HSA? Read our latest news release for information on modest contribution strategies that are still driving enrollment in HSA and HRA plans.

For calendar year 2018, a "high deductible health plan" is defined as a health plan with an annual deductible that is not less than $1,350 for self-only coverage or $2,700 for family coverage, and the annual out-of-pocket expenses (deductibles, co-payments, and other amounts, but not premiums) do not exceed $6,650 for self-only coverage or $13,300 for family coverage.

Retroactive Medicare Coverage Effect on HSA Contributions

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently released a letter regarding retroactive Medicare coverage and health savings account (HSA) contributions.

As background, Medicare Part A coverage begins the month an individual turns age 65, provided the individual files an application for Medicare Part A (or for Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits) within six months of the month in which the individual turns age 65. If the individual files an application more than six months after turning age 65, Medicare Part A coverage will be retroactive for six months.

Individuals who delayed applying for Medicare and were later covered by Medicare retroactively to the month they turned 65 (or six months, if later) cannot make contributions to the HSA for the period of retroactive coverage. There are no exceptions to this rule.

However, if they contributed to an HSA during the months that were retroactively covered by Medicare and, as a result, had contributions in excess of the annual limitation, they may withdraw the excess contributions (and any net income attributable to the excess contribution) from the HSA.

They can make the withdrawal without penalty if they do so by the due date for the return (with extensions). Further, an individual generally may withdraw amounts from an HSA after reaching Medicare eligibility age without penalty. (However, the individual must include both types of withdrawals in income for federal tax purposes to the extent the amounts were previously excluded from taxable income.)

If an excess contribution is not withdrawn by the due date of the federal tax return for the taxable year, it is subject to an excise tax under the Internal Revenue Code. This tax is intended to recapture the benefits of any tax-free earning on the excess contribution.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Capilla D. (2017 June 8). 2018 amounts for HSAs; retroactive medicare coverage effect on contributions  [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/2018-amounts-for-hsas-retroactive-medicare-coverage-effect-on-contributions


Rising Healthcare Costs Hurting Retirement Contributions

The rising costs of healthcare are starting to have a negative impact on employees. Find out how employees are having trouble saving for their retirement thanks to the rise of healthcare costs in the interesting article by Paula Aven Gladych from Employee Benefit News.

Rising healthcare costs have had a dramatic impact on the ability of workers to save for retirement and other financial goals.

The latest Bank of America Merrill Lynch Workplace Benefits Report finds that of the workers who have experienced rising healthcare costs, more than half say they are contributing less to their financial goals as a result, including more than six in 10 who say they are saving less for retirement.

What’s more, financial stress also is playing a big role in employee physical health with nearly six in 10 employees saying it has had a negative impact on their physical well-being. This stress weighs most heavily on millennials at 68%, compared with baby boomers at 51%, according to the research.

Because of these dire statistics, more and more employees are looking to their employer to help them through financial challenges.

“We spend a lot of our waking time working and a lot of our finances are made up of the compensation and benefits our employer provides,” says Sylvie Feast, director of financial guidance services for Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “[Employer’s] healthcare and 401(k) plans are really valued by employees. I don’t think it’s surprising that they are looking to their employer that provides essential benefits to help provide access to ways to better manage their finances.”

And because employers offer healthcare and retirement benefits, it isn’t a stretch for workers to expect their employers to offer financial wellness as a benefit as well, Feast says.

“There’s no silver bullet, but a continuing evolution of trying new things to see what works and has an impact with the workforce,” Feast says. “Culture has something to do with it.”

Online tools, educational content, professional seminars in the workplace and personal consultations can be especially effective offerings, Feast says, adding that those options can help employees get more comfortable talking about their finances at work and at home with their family.

“People are pretty private about their finances,” Feast says. “I think there’s this access the employer needs to provide, but there also needs to be an arms-length distance so it is not the employer delivering it.”

Retirement savings is the area most workers want help with, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s survey. More than half of baby boomers (54% ), 53% of Generation X and 43% of millennials say they need help saving for retirement, with 50% of all respondents ranking it as their No. 1 financial issue.

For millennials, good general savings habits and paying down debt were their next most important financial priorities. For Generation X, paying down debt, good general savings habits and budgeting all tied for second, and for baby boomers, planning for healthcare costs and paying down debt were their next biggest financial priorities.

Eighty-six percent of employees surveyed say they would participate in a financial education program provided by their employer, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Financial education is a slow, but worthy process, Feast says.

“People don’t just automatically start to show an immediate impact to their behavior,” she says. But, “if [employees] take steps, [they] will start to gain control and get more confidence.”

See the original article Here.

Source:

Gladych P. (2017 June 7). Rising healthcare costs hurting retirement contributions [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitnews.com/news/rising-healthcare-costs-hurting-retirement-contributions