District Court Vacates Portions of the Association Health Plans Final Rule

Recently, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the Department of Labor's final ruling on the definition of "employer" exceeded the statutory authority delegated by Congress under ERISA. Read this blog post from UBA for more on this compliance update.


As background, on June 19, 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a Final Rule that broadened the definition of “employer” and the provisions under which an employer group or association may be treated as an “employer” sponsor of a single multiple-employer employee welfare benefit plan and group health plan under Title I of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

On March 28, 2019, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (Court) found that the DOL’s final rule exceeded the statutory authority delegated by Congress under ERISA and that the final rule unlawfully expands ERISA’s scope. In particular, the Court found the final rule’s provisions – defining “employer” to include associations of disparate employers and expanding membership in these associations to include working owners without employees – are unlawful and must be set aside.

The Court’s order vacates the specific provisions of the DOL’s final rule regarding “bona fide group or association of employers,” “commonality of interest,” and “dual treatment of working owners as employers and employees.” The Court order sends the final rule back to the DOL to consider how the final rule’s severability provision affects the final rule’s remaining portions.

Although the DOL issued Questions and Answers after the Court’s decision, the DOL has not indicated how it will proceed. The DOL could revise its final rule or could appeal the decision and request that the Court stay its decision pending the appeal. Employers in association health plans should keep apprised of future developments in this case.

SOURCE: Hsu, K. (2 May 2019) "District Court Vacates Portions of the Association Health Plans Final Rule" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://blog.ubabenefits.com/district-court-vacates-portions-of-the-association-health-plans-final-rule


Advance Informational Copies of 2018 Form 5500 Annual Return/Report

Recently, the IRS, EBSA and PBGC released informational copies of the 2018 Form 5500 annual return/report. Continue reading this blog post for more information and some highlighted changes.


The U.S. Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) released advance informational copies of the 2018 Form 5500 annual return/report and related instructions.

Here are some of the changes that the instructions highlight:

  • Principal Business Activity Codes. Principal Business Activity Codes have been updated to reflect updates to the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). For Line 2d, a plan administrator would enter the six-digit Principal Business Activity Code that best describes the nature of the plan sponsor’s business from the list of codes on pages 78-80 of the Form 5500 Instructions.
  • Administrative Penalties. The instructions have been updated to reflect that the new maximum penalty for a plan administrator who fails or refuses to file a complete or accurate Form 5500 report has been increased to up to $2,140 a day for penalties assessed after January 2, 2018, whose associated violations occurred after November 2, 2015.

Because the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Improvements Act of 2015 requires the penalty amount to be adjusted annually after the Form 5500 and its schedules, attachments, and instructions are published for filing, be sure to check for any possible required inflation adjustments of the maximum penalty amount that are published in the Federal Register after the instructions have been posted.

  • Form 5500-Participant Count. The instructions for Lines 5 and 6 have been enhanced to make clearer that welfare plans complete only Line 5 and elements 6a(1), 6a(2), 6b, 6c, and 6d in Line 6.

Be aware that the advance copies of the 2018 Form 5500 are for informational purposes only and cannot be used to file a 2018 Form 5500 annual return/report.

ERISA imposes the Form 5500 reporting obligation on the plan administrator. Form 5500 is normally due on the last day of the seventh month after the close of the plan year. For example, a plan administrator would file Form 5500 by July 31, 2019, for a 2018 calendar year plan.

SOURCE: Hsu, K. (25 January 2019) "Advance Informational Copies of 2018 Form 5500 Annual Return/Report" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://blog.ubabenefits.com/advance-informational-copies-of-2018-form-5500-annual-return/report


Severance plans: How savvy employers can stay ERISA compliant

There are significant benefits associated with severance arrangements that are also ERISA plans. Read this blog post to find out how you can stay ERISA compliant with your severance plans.


An employer’s promise to provide severance benefits may be written or oral, formal or informal, and individual or group. Determining whether an ERISA plan already exists, or whether an employer wants its severance arrangement to be subject to ERISA, is an important consideration in determining an employer’s obligation and liabilities associated with a severance arrangement.

There are significant advantages associated with a severance arrangement that is an ERISA plan as discussed in detail below. An employer, however, cannot unilaterally decide that the severance arrangement is an ERISA plan. Instead, an employer, when designing and administering a severance arrangement, can take definitive steps to ensure that the arrangement is treated as an ERISA plan.

Employers may assume that the first step to ensure the existence of an ERISA plan is to have a written plan document, which is required by ERISA. Surprisingly, this is not necessarily determinative as to whether an ERISA plan exists. Courts have held that ERISA plans can exist without a written plan document and vice versa.

Case law has provided the broad outlines of the nature of an ERISA-governed severance plan. An essential characteristic of ERISA severance plans is that, by their nature, they necessitate “an ongoing administrative scheme.” Courts have looked at the following indicators when determining what constitutes an ongoing administrative scheme:

  • The employer’s discretion in determining (1) eligibility for benefits or (2) available plan benefits
  • The form of payment such as lump sums versus periodic payments
  • Any ongoing demand on the employer’s assets such that there is an ongoing scheme to coordinate and control the distribution of benefits
  • Calculations based on certain factors such as job performance, length of service, reemployment prospects, and so forth.

Severance plans or arrangements that normally do not require an ongoing administrative scheme, and therefore, do not implicate ERISA, are plans that have lump-sum payments that are calculated under a formula and are mechanically triggered by a single event (such as termination). Where severance payments are made over time (through payroll, for example) and/or additional benefits (such as continuation of benefits or outplacement services) are provided, the severance arrangement is likely subject to ERISA.

As a practical matter, whether severance arrangements are ad hoc or recognized in a formal plan document, they may end up providing ERISA-covered benefits. In a dispute, an employer generally prefers that ERISA applies because of ERISA’s preemption of state laws. Preemption protects employers from state laws that may favor employees and generally limits the dispute to an ERISA claim for benefits, thereby avoiding the potential exposure to punitive, extra-contractual or special damages under state laws. In addition, ERISA’s claim procedure, which provides a pre-litigation administrative process for dispute resolution, will apply if proper plan language is provided. If employees with a severance claim fail to faithfully follow the ERISA claims procedure, their lawsuits may be dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies.

Typically, the plan document gives the employer, in its capacity as plan administrator, the discretionary authority to interpret the plan’s language and make decisions about the plan. If the employee follows the claim procedures and the claim is denied, the decision-making process of the employer (or its designee) if done properly, is given deferential treatment by a reviewing court. Moreover, in many cases, judicial review is limited to only those matters addressed in the administrative record of the claim. In other words, many federal courts would decline to consider factual matters that were not raised by the employee in the claim procedure process.

Another consideration for the savvy employer is that severance benefits are almost always considered to be “welfare” benefits. Welfare benefits, as opposed to pension benefits, are afforded an extremely low level of protection under ERISA. Essentially, the employer’s exposure as to promised severance benefits is only as broad as its express contractual commitment to them. By appropriately documenting the benefits with “best practices” language (such as specifying that the amendment or termination of benefits may be done with or without advance notice), employers can take advantage of the opportunity afforded by the relatively thin protections provided by ERISA. On the other hand, poor or no documentation of a severance arrangement may leave an employer with difficult-to-prove assertions as to what severance commitments were actually made.

In summary, an ERISA-governed plan provides an employer with significant advantages in litigation. In addition, a severance arrangement subject to ERISA will enjoy the powerful benefits of ERISA preemption and the ERISA claims procedures.

SOURCE: Rothman, J.; Ninneman, S. (3 October 2018) "Severance plans, Part 1: How savvy employers can stay ERISA compliant" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/how-employers-can-stay-erisa-compliant-with-severance-plans


Compliance Recap - August 2018

August was a relatively quiet month in the employee benefits world.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Department of Labor (DOL) published a final rule that amends the definition of short-term, limited-duration insurance. HHS also released a fact sheet on the final rule. To provide guidance on association health plans, the DOL posted a fact sheet and the IRS posted a new Q&A for employers. The IRS also released a memo regarding tax payment of a prior year’s fringe benefits

IRS, HHS, and DOL Issue Final Rule on Short-Term, Limited-Duration Insurance

On August 3, 2018, the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Department of Labor (collectively, the Departments) published a final rule that amends the definition of short-term, limited-duration insurance. HHS also released a fact sheet on the final rule.

According to the Departments, the final rule will provide consumers with more affordable options for health coverage because they may buy short-term, limited-duration insurance policies that are less than 12 months in length and may be renewed for up to 36 months.

The final rule will apply to insurance policies sold on or after October 2, 2018. Read more about the final rule.

DOL and IRS Release Additional Information on Association Health Plans

On August 20, 2018, the Department of Labor (DOL) posted the Association Health Plans ERISA Compliance Assistance fact sheet.

On August 20, 2018, the IRS added a new Q&A 18 to its Questions and Answers on Employer Shared Responsibility Provisions Under the Affordable Care Act. Q&A 18 confirms that:

  • An employer that is not an applicable large employer (ALE) under the employer shared responsibility provisions does not become an ALE due to participation in an AHP.
  • An employer that is an ALE under the employer shared responsibility provisions continues to be an ALE subject to the employer shared responsibility provisions regardless of its participation in an AHP.
  • The only circumstance when multiple employers are treated as a single employer for determining whether the employer is an ALE is if the employers have a certain level of common or related ownership.

Read more about the association health plan final rule.

IRS Releases Memo Regarding Tax Payment of Prior Year’s Fringe Benefits

The Internal Revenue Services (IRS) Office of Chief Counsel released Project Manager Technical Advice Memorandum 2018-015. The fact situation involves an employer that failed to include $10,000 in fringe benefits in an employee’s taxable wages for 2016. The employer will be satisfying its obligations by paying the federal income tax withholding and FICA taxes in 2018.

The IRS states that an employer’s payment of taxes that should have been withheld in a prior year does not create additional wages to the employee for the prior year.

Further, if the employer deducts the employee FICA tax from other remuneration paid to the employee (or otherwise collects the amount from the employee), the payment of employee FICA tax by the employer is not additional compensation to the employee in 2018.

However, if the employer does not seek repayment of the employee FICA tax from the employee, the employer’s payment of employee FICA tax in 2018 (without collecting the amount from the employee) is additional wages to the employee when paid in 2018 and is subject to employment taxes.

Question of the Month

Q. Under the ACA, if an employer’s size grows, when does the employer need to offer coverage and report on coverage offered?

A. If the employer employs an average of at least 50 full-time or full-time equivalent employees during calendar year 2018, then it would make offers of coverage in 2019, and report in 2020 on its offers of coverage made in 2019.

The applicable large employer determination is a three-year cycle. For example, an employer’s size, calculated at the conclusion of 2018 determines its obligations for 2019, which it reports on in 2020.

If 2018 is the first time that a company is an applicable large employer, then the company will have until April 1, 2019, to offer coverage. If the company has individuals who are currently full-time employees and the company offers a group health plan, then the company must offer coverage to those full-time employees on January 1, 2019.


ERISA's "Church Plan" Exception

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

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) was signed in 1974. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is the agency responsible for administering and enforcing this law. For many years, most of ERISA's requirements applied to pension plans. However, in recent years that has changed, and group plans (called "welfare benefit plans" by ERISA and the DOL) now must meet a number of requirements. Government and church plans do not need to comply with ERISA.

However, some employers are unsure if they meet ERISA's "church plan" exception. Entities associated with churches such as hospitals, schools, nursing homes, and charities are often unclear about whether they meet the exception. Under ERISA, a church plan is "any employee benefit plan established and maintained by a church or by a convention or association of churches that is exempt from tax under IRS Code Section 501 with respect to which no election has been made under IRS Code Section 410(d). The plan must be established and maintained primarily for benefit of the employees of a church or convention or association of churches. Substantially all the covered individuals under the plan must be employees of the church or the convention or association of churches.

Although this might seem straightforward at first glance, determining whether a church or convention or association of churches exists is dependent on the facts and circumstances of an organization. Organizations may request a DOL opinion letter, or an IRS private letter ruling (although the DOL reserves the right to review IRS determinations via private letter) to determine if they meet the definition. To add another layer of uncertainty, courts are not bound by either DOL or IRS determinations.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Capilla D. (2017 August 3). ERISA's "church plan" exception [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/erisas-church-plan-exception-1


Kaiser Health Tracking Poll – August 2017: The Politics of ACA Repeal and Replace Efforts

With the Senate's plan for the repeal and replacement of the ACA failing more Americans are hoping for Congress to move on to more pressing matters. Find out how Americans really feel about the ACA and healthcare reform in this great study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

KEY FINDINGS:
  • The August Kaiser Health Tracking Poll finds that the majority of the public (60 percent) say it is a “good thing” that the Senate did not pass the bill that would have repealed and replaced the ACA. Since then, President Trump has suggested Congress not take on other issues, like tax reform, until it passes a replacement plan for the ACA, but six in ten Americans (62 percent) disagree with this approach, while one-third (34 percent) agree with it.
  • A majority of the public (57 percent) want to see Republicans in Congress work with Democrats to make improvements to the 2010 health care law, while smaller shares say they want to see Republicans in Congress continue working on their own plan to repeal and replace the ACA (21 percent) or move on from health care to work on other priorities (21 percent). However, about half of Republicans and Trump supporters would like to see Republicans in Congress keep working on a plan to repeal the ACA.
  • A large share of Americans (78 percent) think President Trump and his administration should do what they can to make the current health care law work while few (17 percent) say they should do what they can to make the law fail so they can replace it later. About half of Republicans and supporters of President Trump say the Trump administration should do what they can to make the law work (52 percent and 51 percent, respectively) while about four in ten say they should do what they can to make the law fail (40 percent and 39 percent, respectively). Moving forward, a majority of the public (60 percent) says President Trump and Republicans in Congress are responsible for any problems with the ACA.
  • Since Congress began debating repeal and replace legislation, there has been news about instability in the ACA marketplaces. The majority of the public are unaware that health insurance companies choosing not to sell insurance plans in certain marketplaces or health insurance companies charging higher premiums in certain marketplaces only affect those who purchase their own insurance on these marketplaces (67 percent and 80 percent, respectively). In fact, the majority of Americans think that health insurance companies charging higher premiums in certain marketplaces will have a negative impact on them and their family, while fewer (31 percent) say it will have no impact.
  • A majority of the public disapprove of stopping outreach efforts for the ACA marketplaces so fewer people sign up for insurance (80 percent) and disapprove of the Trump administration no longer enforcing the individual mandate (65 percent). While most Republicans and Trump supporters disapprove of stopping outreach efforts, a majority of Republicans (66 percent) and Trump supporters (65 percent) approve of the Trump administration no longer enforcing the individual mandate.
  • The majority of Americans (63 percent) do not think President Trump should use negotiating tactics that could disrupt insurance markets and cause people who buy their own insurance to lose health coverage, while three in ten (31 percent) support using whatever tactics necessary to encourage Democrats to start negotiating on a replacement plan. The majority of Republicans (58 percent) and President Trump supporters (59 percent) support these negotiating tactics while most Democrats, independents, and those who disapprove of President Trump do not (81 percent, 65 percent, 81 percent).
  • This month’s survey continues to find that more of the public holds a favorable view of the ACA than an unfavorable one (52 percent vs. 39 percent). This marks an overall increase in favorability of nine percentage points since the 2016 presidential election as well as an increase of favorability among Democrats, independents, and Republicans.

Attitudes Towards Recent “Repeal and Replace” Efforts

In the early morning hours of July 28, 2017, the U.S. Senate voted on their latest version of a plan to repeal and replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA). Known as “skinny repeal,” this plan was unable to garner majority support– thus temporarily halting Congress’ ACA repeal efforts. The August Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, fielded the week following the failed Senate vote, finds that a majority of the public (60 percent) say it is a “good thing” that the U.S. Senate did not pass a bill aimed at repealing and replacing the ACA, while about one-third (35 percent) say this is a “bad thing.” However, views vary considerably by partisanship with a majority of Democrats (85 percent), independents (62 percent), and individuals who say they disapprove of President Trump (81 percent) saying it is a “good thing” that the Senate did not pass a bill compared to a majority of Republicans (64 percent) and individuals who say they approve of President Trump (65 percent) saying it is a “bad thing” that the Senate did not pass a bill.

The majority of those who view the Senate not passing an ACA replacement bill as a “good thing” say they feel this way because they do not want the 2010 health care law repealed (34 percent of the public overall) while a smaller share (23 percent of the public overall) say they feel this way because, while they support efforts to repeal and replace the ACA, they had specific concerns about the particular bill the Senate was debating.

And while most Republicans and supporters of President Trump say it is a “bad thing” that the Senate did not pass ACA repeal legislation, for those that say it is a “good thing” more Republicans say they had concerns about the Senate’s particular legislation (21 percent) than say they do not want the ACA repealed (6 percent). This is also true among supporters of President Trump (19 percent vs. 6 percent).

WHO DO PEOPLE BLAME OR CREDIT FOR THE SENATE BILL FAILING TO PASS?

Among those who say it is a “good thing” that the Senate was unable to pass ACA repeal and replace legislation, similar shares say the general public who voiced concerns about the bill (40 percent) and the Republicans in Congress who voted against the bill (35 percent) deserve most of the credit for the bill failing to pass. This is followed by a smaller share (14 percent) who say Democrats in Congress deserve the most credit.

On the other hand, among those who say it is a “bad thing” that the Senate did not pass a bill to repeal the ACA, over a third place the blame on Democrats in Congress (37 percent). About three in ten (29 percent) place the blame on Republicans in Congress while fewer (15 percent) say President Trump deserves most of the blame for the bill failing to pass.

HALF OF THE PUBLIC ARE “RELIEVED” OR “HAPPY” THE SENATE DID NOT REPEAL AND REPLACE THE ACA

More Americans say they are “relieved” (51 percent) or “happy” (47 percent) that the Senate did not pass a bill repealing and replacing the ACA, than say they are “disappointed” (38 percent) or “angry” (19 percent).

Although two-thirds of Republicans and Trump supporters say they feel “disappointed” about the Senate failing to pass a bill to repeal and replace the ACA, smaller shares (30 percent and 37 percent, respectively) report feeling “angry” about the failure to pass the health care bill.

MAJORITY SAY PRESIDENT TRUMP AND REPUBLICANS IN CONGRESS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ACA MOVING FORWARD

With the future of any other replacement plans uncertain, the majority (60 percent) of the public say that because President Trump and Republicans in Congress are now in control of the government, they are responsible for any problems with the ACA moving forward, compared to about three in ten Americans (28 percent) who say that because President Obama and Democrats in Congress passed the law, they are responsible for any problems with it. Partisan divisiveness continues with majorities of Republicans and supporters of President Trump who say President Obama and Democrats are responsible for any problems with it moving forward, while large shares of Democrats, independents, and those who do not approve of President Trump say President Trump and Republicans in Congress are responsible for the law moving forward.

Moving Past Repealing The Affordable Care Act

This month’s survey continues to find that more of the public holds a favorable view of the ACA than an unfavorable one (52 percent vs. 39 percent). This marks an overall increase in favorability since Congress began debating ACA replacement plans and a nine percentage point shift since the 2016 presidential election.

The shift in attitudes since the 2016 presidential election is found regardless of party identification. For example, the share of Republicans who have a favorable view of the ACA has increased from 12 percent in November 2016 to 21 percent in August 2017. This is similar to the increase in favorability among independents (11 percentage points) and Democrats (7 percentage points) over the same time period.

NEXT STEPS FOR THE ACA

The most recent Kaiser Health Tracking Poll finds that after the U.S. Senate was unable to pass a plan to repeal and replace the ACA, the majority of the public (57 percent) wants to see Republicans in Congress work with Democrats to make improvements to the 2010 health care law but not repeal it. Far fewer want to see Republicans in Congress continue working on their own plan to repeal and replace the ACA (21 percent) or move on from health care to work on other priorities (21 percent). About half of Republicans (49 percent) and Trump supporters (46 percent) want Republicans in Congress to continue working on their own plan to repeal and replace the ACA, but about a third of each say they would like to see Republicans work with Democrats on improvements to the ACA.

Six in ten Americans (62 percent) disagree with President Trump’s strategy of Congress not taking on other issues, like tax reform, until it passes a replacement plan for the ACA while one-third (34 percent) of the public agree with this approach. Republicans and Trump supporters are more divided in their opinion on this strategy with similar shares saying they agree and disagree with the approach.

MOST WANT TO SEE PRESIDENT TRUMP AND REPUBLICANS MAKE THE CURRENT HEALTH CARE LAW WORK

Regardless of their opinions of the ACA, the majority of the public want to see the 2010 health care law work. Eight in ten (78 percent) Americans think President Trump and his administration should do what they can to make the current health care law work while fewer (17 percent) say President Trump and his adminstration should do what they can to make the law fail so they can replace it later. About half of Republicans and supporters of President Trump say the Trump administration should do what they can to make the law work (52 percent and 51 percent, respectively) while about four in ten say they should do what they can to make the law fail (40 percent and 39 percent, respectively).

This month’s survey also includes questions about specific actions that the Trump administration can take to make the ACA fail and finds that the majority of the public disapproves of the Trump Administration stopping outreach efforts for the ACA marketplaces so fewer people sign up for insurance (80 percent) and no longer enforcing the individual mandate, the requirement that all individuals have insurance or pay a fine (65 percent). While most Republicans and Trump supporters disapprove of President Trump stopping outreach efforts so fewer people sign up for insurance, which experts say could weaken the marketplaces, a majority of Republicans (66 percent) and Trump supporters (65 percent) approve of the Trump administration no longer enforcing the individual mandate.

The Future of the ACA Marketplaces

About 10.3 million people have health insurance that they purchased through the ACA exchanges or marketplaces, where people who don’t get insurance through their employer can shop for insurance and compare prices and benefits.1 Seven in ten (69 percent) say it is more important for President Trump and Republicans’ next steps on health care to include fixing the remaining problems with the ACA in order to help the marketplaces work better, compared to three in ten (29 percent) who say it is more important for them to continue plans to repeal and replace the ACA.

The majority of Republicans (61 percent) and Trump supporters (63 percent) say it is more important for President Trump and Republicans to continue plans to repeal and replace the ACA, while the vast majority of Democrats (90 percent) and seven in ten independents (69 percent) want them to fix the ACA’s remaining problems to help the marketplaces work better.

UNCERTAINTY REMAINS ON WHO IS IMPACTED BY ISSUES IN THE ACA MARKETPLACES

Since Congress began debating repeal and replace legislation, there has been news about instability in the ACA marketplaces which has led some insurance companies to charge higher premiums in certain marketplaces.  Six in ten Americans think that health insurance companies charging higher premiums in certain marketplaces will have a negative impact on them and their family, while fewer (31 percent) say it will have no impact.

There has also been news about insurance companies no longer selling coverage in the individual insurance marketplaces and currently, it’s estimated that 17 counties (9,595 enrollees) are currently at risk to have no insurer on the ACA marketplaces in 2018.2 The majority of the public (54 percent) say health insurance companies choosing not to sell insurance plans in certain marketplaces will have no impact on them and their family. Yet, despite the limited number of counties that may not have an insurer in their marketplaces as well as this not affecting those with employer sponsored insurance where most people obtain health insurance, about four in ten (38 percent) of the public believe that health insurance companies choosing to not sell insurance plans in certain marketplaces will have a negative impact on them and their families.

The majority of the public think both of these ACA marketplace issues will affect everyone who has health insurance and not just those who purchase their insurance on these marketplaces. Six in ten think health insurance companies choosing not to sell insurance plans in certain marketplaces will affect everyone who has health insurance while about one-fourth (26 percent) correctly say it only affects those who buy health insurance on their own. In addition, three-fourths (76 percent) of the public say that health insurance companies charging higher premiums in certain marketplaces will affect everyone who has health insurance while fewer (17 percent) correctly say it will affect only those who buy health insurance on their own.

MAJORITY SAY PRESIDENT TRUMP SHOULD NOT USE COST-SHARING REDUCTION PAYMENTS AS NEGOTIATING STRATEGY

Over the past several months President Trump has threatened to stop the payments to insurance companies that help cover the cost of health insurance for lower-income Americans (known commonly as CSR payments), in order to get Democrats to start working with Republicans on an ACA replacement plan.3 The majority of Americans (63 percent) do not think President Trump should use negotiating tactics that could disrupt insurance markets and cause people who buy their own insurance to lose health coverage, while three in ten (31 percent) support President Trump using whatever tactics necessary to encourage Democrats to start negotiating. The majority of Republicans (58 percent) and President Trump supporters (59 percent) support negotiating tactics while most Democrats, independents, and those who disapprove of President Trump do not (81 percent, 65 percent, 81 percent).

See the original article Here.

Source:

Kirzinger A., Dijulio B., Wu B., Brodie M. (2017 Aug 11). Kaiser health tracking poll-august 2017: the politics of ACA repeal and replace efforts [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.kff.org/health-reform/poll-finding/kaiser-health-tracking-poll-august-2017-the-politics-of-aca-repeal-and-replace-efforts/?utm_campaign=KFF-2017-August-Tracking-Poll&utm_medium=email&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-9GaFJKrO9G3bL05k_i4GzC04eMAaSCDlmcsiYsfzAn-SeJdK_JnFvab4GydMfe_9iGiiKy5LR0iKxm6f0gDZGbwqh-bQ&_hsmi=55195408&utm_content=55195408&utm_source=hs_email&hsCtaTracking=4463482c-5ae1-4dfa-b489-f54b5dd97156%7Cd5849489-f587-49ad-ae35-3bd735545b28


Health Reform Expert: Here’s What HR Needs to Know About GOP Repeal Bill Passing

The House of Repersentives has just passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA), new legislation to begin the repeal process of the ACA. Check out this great article from HR Morning and take a look how this new legislation will affect HR by Jared Bilski.

Virtually every major news outlet is covering the passage of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) by the House. But amidst all the coverage, it’s tough to find an answer to a question that’s near and dear to HR: What does this GOP victory mean for employers? 

The AHCA bill, which passed in the House with 217 votes, is extremely close to the original version of the legislation that was introduced in March but pulled just before a vote could take place due to lack of support.

While the so-called “repeal-and-replace” bill would kill many of the ACA’s taxes (except the Cadillac Tax), much of the popular health-related provisions of Obamacare would remain intact.

Pre-existing conditions, essential benefits

However, the new bill does allow states to waive certain key requirements under the ACA. One of the major amendments centers on pre-existing conditions.

Under the ACA, health plans can’t base premium rates on health status factors, or pre-existing conditions; premiums had to be based on coverage tier, community rating, age (as long as the rates don’t vary by more than 3 to 1) and tobacco use. In other words, plans can’t charge participants with pre-existing conditions more than “healthy” individuals are charged.

Under the AHCA, individual states can apply for waivers to be exempt from this ACA provision and base premiums on health status factors.

Bottom line: Under this version of the AHCA, insurers would still be required to cover individuals with pre-existing conditions — but they’d be allowed to charge astronomical amounts for coverage.

To compensate for the individuals with prior health conditions who may not be able to afford insurance, applying states would have to establish high-risk pools that are federally funded. Critics argue these pools won’t be able to offer nearly as much coverage for individuals as the ACA did.

Under the AHCA, states could also apply for a waiver to receive an exemption — dubbed the “MacArthur amendment” — to ACA requirement on essential health benefits and create their own definition of these benefits.

Implications for HR

So what does all this mean for HR pros? HR Morning spoke to healthcare reform implementation and employee benefits attorney Garrett Fenton of Miller & Chevalier and asked him what’s next for the AHCA as well as what employers should do in response. Here’s a sampling of the Q&A:

HR Morning: What’s next for the AHCA?
Garrett Fenton: The Senate, which largely has stayed out of the ACA repeal and replacement process until now, will begin its process to develop, amend, and ultimately vote on a bill … many Republican Senators have publicly voiced concerns, and even opposition, to the version of the AHCA that passed the House.

One major bone of contention – even within the GOP – was that the House passed the bill without waiting for a forthcoming updated report from the Congressional Budget Office.  That report will take into account the latest amendments to the AHCA, and provide estimates of the legislation’s cost to the federal government and impact on the number of uninsured individuals …

… assuming the Senate does not simply rubber stamp the House bill, but rather passes its own ACA repeal and replacement legislation, either the Senate’s bill will need to go back to the House for another vote, or the House and Senate will “conference,” reconcile the differences between their respective bills, and produce a compromise piece of legislation that both chambers will then vote on.

Ultimately the same bill will need to pass both the House and Senate before going to the President for his signature.  In light of the House’s struggles to advance the AHCA, and the razor-thin margin by which it ultimately passed, it appears that we’re still in for a long road ahead.

HR Morning: What should employers be doing now?
Garrett Fenton: At this point, employers would be well-advised to stay the course on ACA compliance. The House’s passage of the AHCA is merely the first step in the legislative process, with the bill likely to undergo significant changes and an uncertain future in the Senate. The last few months have taught us nothing if not the impossibility of predicting precisely how and when the Republicans’ ACA repeal and replacement effort ultimately will unfold.  To be sure, the AHCA would have a potentially significant impact on employer-sponsored coverage.

However, any employer efforts to implement large-scale changes in reliance on the AHCA certainly would be premature at this stage.  The ACA remains the law of the land for the time being, and there’s still a long way to go toward even a partial repeal and replacement.  Employers certainly should stay on top of the legislative developments, and in the meantime, be on the lookout for possible changes to the current guidance at the regulatory level.

HR Morning: Specifically, how should employers proceed with their ACA compliance obligations in light of the House passage of the AHCA?Garrett Fenton: Again, employers should stay the course for the time being, and not assume that the AHCA’s provisions impacting employer-sponsored plans ultimately will be enacted.  The ACA remains the law of the land for now.  However, a number of ACA-related changes are likely to be made at the regulatory and “sub-regulatory” level – regardless of the legislative repeal and replacement efforts – thereby underscoring the importance of staying on top of the ever-changing guidance and landscape under the Trump administration.

Fenton also touched on how the “MacArthur amendment” and the direct impact it could have on employers by stating it:

“… could impact large group and self-funded employer plans, which separately are prohibited from imposing annual and lifetime dollar limits on those same essential health benefits.  So in theory, for example, a large group or self-funded employer plan might be able to use a “waiver” state’s definition of essential health benefits – which could be significantly more limited than the current federal definition, and exclude items like maternity, mental health, or substance abuse coverage – for purposes of the annual and lifetime limit rules.  Employers thus effectively could be permitted to begin imposing dollar caps on certain benefits that currently would be prohibited under the ACA.”

See the original article Here.

Source:

Bilski J. (2017 May 5). Health reform expert: here's what HR needs to know about GOP repeal bill passing [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.hrmorning.com/health-reform-expert-heres-what-hr-needs-to-know-about-gop-repeal-bill-passing/


Discovery for Health and Welfare Benefit Plans: Required ERISA Reporting—Form 5500

Make sure you are aware of all the requirements for Form 5500 reporting. Take a look at this great article from our partner, United Benefit Advisors (UBA) about how to properly file Form 5500 by Anne B. Vandeveer.

Most companies are fully aware of Form 5500 reporting requirements related to their 401(k) plans, but are less familiar with the Form 5500 reporting requirements for their health and welfare benefit plans.

Requirements: Most employer-sponsored health and welfare benefit plans, including, but not limited to, group health, dental, vision, life insurance, disability insurance, voluntary worksite benefits (typically, but not always), and health flexible spending account (FSA) plans are subject to the reporting requirements under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) of 1974.

A Form 5500 is due to be filed with the Department of Labor (DOL) within seven months after the end of the plan year.

Exemptions: While there are a few common exceptions to filing for smaller plans and those sponsored by certain governmental and church plans, most employers who are filing Form 5500 for their retirement plans will also have Form 5500 reporting requirements for their health and welfare plans. Certain funding types (VEBAs, Trusts) may not be exempt based on size, however.

Normal Annual Filing: Once Schedule A information is available on the plan, from the carrier or third-party administrator (TPA), this information, along with some general participant enrollment information, is used to complete the filing. So long as company ownership, participation, and plans offered haven't changed from year to year, it's a fairly simply process.

It is worth reviewing the filing history of all plans subject to ERISA for all prior years to rule out any delinquencies in advance of filing for the current year. If all is in order, the filing deadline is the last day of the seventh month after the end of the plan year. Extensions, of up to 2.5 months, are available if the company applies prior to the initial deadline by filing Form 5558 with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Failure to File and Remedy: If a Form 5500 filing is determined to be delinquent, the company is potentially subject to penalties imposed by the DOL (up to $1,100 per day) if the DOL discovers this before the return is filed electronically. The company can voluntarily "enter" the DOL's delinquent filer amnesty program. The program is formally named the Delinquent Filer Voluntary Compliance Program (DFVCP) and entering it will eliminate the risk of any future penalty associated with the delinquent Form 5500 returns. However, the DOL still imposes a lower, capped dollar penalty, which is assessed on a "per plan" basis.

The first step for a DFVCP filing is in defining the applicable plans and plan years along with the due date for each plan, historically. Correction is generally suggested as far back as the delinquency goes, or minimally as far back as documentation can be provided. That said, many companies choose to internally review all options and risks.

Preparation of Filings: The DOL mandates electronic filings under its EFAST2 system and it can be challenging for employers to prepare their own Form 5500 filings. Defining whether, and which of, your plans are subject to the ERISA reporting requirements is the best first step of the ERISA reporting process.

Because the forms resemble IRS tax forms, companies often assume that an accountant is needed for preparation. This is not necessarily the case and it is more common to rely on a benefits consultant with domain expertise. These consultants routinely determine filing requirements, have experience dealing directly with the DOL (not IRS), and transmit hundreds of filings annually.

That said, it is important to note that, regardless of who prepares the filing, it remains the sole responsibility of the employer, or Plan Sponsor, when it comes to Form 5500 transmissions or failures to file.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Vandeveer A. (2017 April 18). Discovery for health and welfare benefit plans: required ERISA reporting-form 5500[Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/discovery-for-health-and-welfare-benefit-plans-required-erisa-reporting-form-5500


10 Things to Know about Medicaid: Setting the Facts Straight

Do you need help understanding all the aspects of Medicaid? Check out this informative article by Julia Paradise from Kaiser Family Foundation about the 10 most important things you must know when dealing with Medicaid.

Medicaid, the nation’s public health insurance program for low-income children, adults, seniors, and people with disabilities, covers 1 in 5 Americans, including many with complex and costly needs for medical care and long-term services. Most people covered by Medicaid would be uninsured or underinsured without it. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) expanded Medicaid to reach low-income adults previously excluded from the program and provided federal funding to states for the vast majority of the cost of newly eligible adults.

President Trump and other GOP leaders have called for far-reaching changes to Medicaid, including caps on federal funding for the program. In the debate about Medicaid’s future, some critics of the program have made statements that are at odds with data, research, and basic information about Medicaid. To inform policy decisions that may have significant implications for Medicaid, the low-income people it serves, and the states, this brief highlights 10 key Medicaid facts.

1.    Medicaid is a cost-effective program, providing health coverage for low-income Americans at a lower per-person cost than private insurance could.

Some say that Medicaid costs too much. Total Medicaid costs are high because Medicaid covers many people with complex needs for both health care and long-term care. Most Medicaid spending is for seniors and people with disabilities (Figure 1). Analysis shows that when the greater health needs of Medicaid enrollees are adjusted, costs per enrollee are lower in Medicaid relative to private insurance; spending per enrollee would be 25% higher if adult Medicaid beneficiaries were instead covered by employer-based insurance, largely because private insurers generally pay providers more than states do. Growth in Medicaid acute care spending per enrollee has also been low relative to other health spending benchmarks, and federal data show that Medicaid has constrained per capita spending growth more than Medicare and private insurance. States have strong financial incentives to manage Medicaid closely and ensure program integrity because they must pay a large share of Medicaid costs and must also balance their budgets. The ACA provided increased funding and new tools for both federal and state Medicaid program integrity efforts, and states continue to strengthen their operations, using data analytics and predictive modeling, expanding their program integrity activities to managed care, and making other investments.

2.    Medicaid bolsters the private insurance market by acting as a high-risk pool.

Some say that private insurance could do a better job of covering low-income people than Medicaid. Actually, Medicaid was established to provide health coverage for many uninsured people who were excluded from the private, largely employment-based health insurance system because of low income, poor health status, or disability. Over time, federal and state expansions of Medicaid have resulted in historic reductions in the share of children without coverage and, in the states adopting the ACA Medicaid expansion, sharp declines in the share of adults without coverage. Nearly 8 in 10 nonelderly, non-disabled adults are in working families and a majority are working themselves, but many work in small firms and types of industries that tend to have limited or no job-based coverage options. Among adult Medicaid enrollees who are not working, illness or disability is the main reason. By covering many of the poorest and sickest Americans, Medicaid effectively serves as a high-risk pool for the private health insurance market, taking out the highest-cost people, thereby helping to keep private insurance premiums more affordable.

Medicaid also bolsters the private insurance system by providing supplemental coverage for many privately insured children with special needs and children and adults with disabilities. Medicaid pays for therapies, dental and vision care, and other medical and long-term services and supports needed by many of these individuals but typically not covered by private insurance.

3.    Federal Medicaid matching funds support states’ ability to meet changing coverage needs, such as during economic downturns and public health emergencies.

Some argue that federal funding for Medicaid should be capped to remove states’ incentives to spend more. The availability of federal matching funds with no pre-set limit does not mean that states have no incentives to constrain spending. On the contrary, because they must spend their own dollars to claim federal matching payments, and are required by their constitutions to balance their budgets, states have a strong interest in running efficient and effective programs. State cost-cutting measures taken in hard economic times have led to lean Medicaid operations, and state Medicaid programs have been leaders in health care delivery and payment reform designed to control costs and improve care. Over 2007-2013, average annual growth in Medicaid spending per enrollee was  less than growth in private health insurance premiums – 3.1% compared to 4.6%.

The guarantee of federal matching funds at least dollar for dollar enlarges states’ financial capacity to respond to changing coverage needs. Because federal funds flow to states based on actual needs and costs, Medicaid can respond if there is an economic downturn, or medical costs rise, or there is a public health emergency such as the opioid epidemic or a natural disaster such as Hurricane Katrina. Federal payments to states adjust automatically to reflect the increased costs of the program. Capped federal funding for Medicaid would reduce federal spending, but the burden of the reductions would fall on states. The levers that states have to manage with reduced federal Medicaid funding are cuts in Medicaid eligibility and benefits, which could limit their ability to meet the health needs of their residents, respond to recessionary pressures and emerging health issues, and provide access to new but costly health care technologies, including life-saving drugs, to Medicaid beneficiaries. Federal caps would also lock in states’ historical spending patterns, constraining their flexibility to respond to changing resources and priorities.

4.    Medicaid is a major spending item in state budgets, but also the largest source of federal funds for states.

Some say that Medicaid is crowding out state spending on education and other state priorities. Medicaid is a major item in state budgets, but it is also the single largest source of federal funds for states. In FY 2015, Medicaid accounted for more than half (57%) of all federal funds states received. The federal government matches state Medicaid spending at least dollar for dollar and pays more in poorer states, and states receive an enhanced federal match – 95% in 2017 – for Medicaid expansion adults. In FY 2015, Medicaid accounted for 28% of total state spending (i.e., including state spending of federal dollars), but less than 16% of state spending of state funds – a distant second to state funds spending on K-12 education (almost 25%).

An analysis examining economic and fiscal trends in Medicaid expansion and non-expansion states found that Medicaid expansion states, which typically raise more tax revenues as a share of total taxable resources than non-expansion states, spend more per capita on both Medicaid and K-12 education. Research shows that the injection of federal Medicaid matching funds into state economies has a multiplier effect, directly benefiting the health care providers that serve Medicaid beneficiaries, and also indirectly supporting other businesses and industries (e.g., vendors), producing increased state economic activity and output as the funds flow through the system. More recent analyses find positive effects of the Medicaid expansion on multiple economic outcomes in states, including budget savings, revenue gains, and overall economic growth.

5.    States have broad discretion in designing key aspects of their Medicaid programs.

Some say that Medicaid is federally controlled and inflexible, leaving states little room to shape their own programs. In fact, beyond federal minimum requirements for Medicaid, states have and use extensive flexibility and options to design key dimensions of their Medicaid programs. For example, they can and do elect to cover many optional services and optional groups. State Medicaid programs vary widely in terms of who is eligible, which services are covered, premiums and cost-sharing requirements, the delivery systems in which beneficiaries get care, and provider payment methods and rates. The different program design choices that states make, reflecting their particular needs, preferences, and priorities, are a large underlying factor in the wide variation in state Medicaid spending per enrollees (Figure 5). In 2011, Medicaid spending per full-benefit enrollee ranged from $4,010 in Nevada to $11,091 in Massachusetts. In addition to the flexibilities and optional state authorities provided by federal Medicaid law, states can obtain Section 1115 demonstration waivers that permit them to test and implement approaches that deviate from federal Medicaid rules if the HHS Secretary determines they advance program objectives. As of January 2017, 37 states had a total of 50 approved Section 1115 waivers.

6.    Medicaid beneficiaries have robust access to care overall, although access to certain types of specialists is an ongoing challenge for Medicaid and all payers.

Some say that access to care in Medicaid is lacking because 30% of physicians do not accept new Medicaid patients (about 70% do accept new Medicaid patients versus about 85% who accept new privately insured and Medicare patients). Taken alone, physician participation rates are a weak measure of access to care. A large body of research shows that Medicaid beneficiaries have far better access to care than the uninsured and are far less likely to postpone or go without needed care due to cost. Moreover, rates of access to care and satisfaction with care among Medicaid enrollees are comparable to rates for people with private insurance (Figure 6). Gaps in access to certain providers, especially psychiatrists, some specialists, and dentists, are ongoing challenges in Medicaid and often in the health system more broadly. Contributing factors include provider shortages, geographic maldistribution of health care providers, low Medicaid payment rates, and lack of transportation. Managed care plans, which now serve most Medicaid beneficiaries, are responsible under their contracts with states for ensuring adequate provider networks. There is no evidence that physician participation in Medicaid is declining. In a 2015 survey, 4 in 10 PCPs who accepted Medicaid reported seeing an increased number of Medicaid patients since January 2014, when the coverage expansions in the ACA took full effect. A recent analysis found no consistent evidence that increases in the share of adults with insurance at the local-area level affected access to care for adults in those areas who were already insured, including Medicaid beneficiaries.

7.    Medicaid keeps coverage and care affordable for low-income Americans.

Some say that Medicaid enrollees should pay more for their health care and have more “skin in the game” to restrain utilization. Federal law limits Medicaid premiums and cost-sharing to minimize financial barriers to coverage and care for low-income people: total out-of-pocket costs for a family are limited to 5% of the family’s income. Research shows that average spending greatly exceeds average income in low-income households, suggesting that these households accrue debt even as they earn. Therefore, even small amounts of spending on health care can crowd out other necessities or push low-income families further into debt. A family of three living at 138% FPL (the eligibility threshold for adults in Medicaid expansion states) has income of $28,180. Out-of-pocket costs totaling just 3% of their income – about $845 – would leave this family with less than $27,500 to pay for housing, utilities, food, clothing, transportation, school supplies, and other necessities. The same family living in one of the non-expansion states, where the median eligibility limit for parents is 44% FPL, would be left with about $8,700 to meet these basic costs.

Numerous studies have shown significant declines in enrollment in coverage after the implementation of new or higher premiums, as well as shorter spells of enrollment and reduced rates of renewal (Figure 7). Many who lose coverage become uninsured. Cost-sharing has been shown to lead to significant reductions in use of services, including essential and effective services like screenings and preventive care, prescription drugs, inpatient care, and other care key to health outcomes. Cost-sharing can have a particularly large impact on people with lower income and significant health care needs, as small copays add up quickly. Medicaid providers frequently report difficulty collecting cost-sharing, which effectively reduces their reimbursement; states do not collect much revenue from premiums, and state savings are largely attributable to decreased enrollment and reduced use of services – often, needed services. The Oregon Health Insurance Experiment (OHIE) showed that gaining Medicaid virtually eliminated catastrophic out-of-pocket medical spending among previously uninsured adults and reduced financial hardship. Federal action to reduce financial protections in

Medicaid would run counter to the empirical evidence that premiums and cost-sharing impede coverage and access to care, and preempt waiver initiatives underway in numerous states to further test these policies.

8.    Evidence of Medicaid’s impact on health outcomes is growing.

Some say that having Medicaid is worse than being uninsured. In fact, research shows consistently that Medicaid improves access to care for both children and adults with low income. Access to screening and preventive care in Medicaid translates into well-child care, earlier detection of health and developmental problems in children, and earlier diagnosis of cancer, diabetes, mental illness, and other chronic conditions in people of all ages. Access to primary care providers and specialists, prescription drugs, and other services improves the likelihood that Medicaid enrollees will get treatment for both their acute and chronic conditions. Expansions of Medicaid pregnant women and children have led to improved birth outcomes and child health, and there is growing evidence that Medicaid expansions to adults are associated with increased use of screening services and preventive care, prescription drugs, inpatient care, and other services key to improving health outcomes (Figure 8). The OHIE, which used a uniquely rigorous study design, found that uninsured adults who gained Medicaid coverage through a state lottery reported improved self-rated mental health and had a 30% reduction in clinically observed rates of depression relative to the comparison group of adults who remained uninsured. Medicaid also increased diabetes detection and use of diabetes medication, though the effect on control of diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol was not statistically significant. Research has also found that Medicaid expansions for adults were associated with significant reductions in mortality. A new study shows meaningful impacts of the Medicaid expansion on mental health for low-income parents. Some Medicaid critics, citing a small sample of observational clinical studies, have asserted that Medicaid beneficiaries have worse outcomes than the uninsured. However, a group of distinguished health services researchers commenting in a leading medical journal wrote that these studies lack a causal model explaining the observed data and, outlining numerous analytic problems with the critics’ interpretation of the findings, effectively discredited their argument.

9.    Medicaid is the primary payer for long-term care for seniors and people with disabilities.

Some assume that Medicare, the federal health insurance program for seniors and people with disabilities, covers long-term care. In fact, Medicare coverage of long-term care is extremely limited. Medicaid is essentially the only public or private insurance program that covers long-term care. Six in 10 nursing home residents are covered by Medicaid, and Medicaid’s role in providing access to community-based long-term services and supports (LTSS) for both seniors and people with disabilities is hard to overstate. The program is the largest single source of payment for long-term care, financing half of total spending in this sector, including both nursing home care and home and community-based services (HCBS) (Figure 9). Over time, states have been working to rebalance their LTSS systems by devoting a greater percentage of their long-term care spending to HCBS relative to nursing home care, and Medicaid has been instrumental in expanding access to community-based LTSS, advancing efforts to increase community integration of seniors and individuals with disabilities.

In addition to covering LTSS, Medicaid also makes Medicare work for nearly 10 million poor Medicare beneficiaries (1 in 5 of all Medicare beneficiaries), known as “dual eligibles,” by helping with their Medicare premiums and out-of-pocket costs and covering vision and dental care and other benefits that Medicare does not cover. In the debate about the ACA Medicaid expansion to low-income adults, some have argued that state choices to adopt the expansion come at the cost of Medicaid’s neediest beneficiaries, but the research does not bear this out. A recent study found no evidence for the claim that Medicaid expansion leads to longer waiting lists for Medicaid HCBS waivers for seniors and people with disabilities. The study found that waiting lists for these waivers pre-date the ACA Medicaid expansion, and that there appears to be no relationship between a state’s Medicaid expansion status and changes in its HCBS waiver waiting list.

10. Medicaid is popular with the American public as well as with enrollees themselves.

Some say that Medicaid is a poor and broken program. The majority of Americans say that Medicaid is a very important program. More than half (56%) report that they, a child of theirs, or another family member or friend has been enrolled in Medicaid; the same percentage say that Medicaid is important for them and their family (Figure 10). Most Medicaid enrollees say the program is working well for the low-income people it covers and the vast majority feel well-protected financially. Focus group research has shown high levels of satisfaction with Medicaid among parents with children in the program. Two-thirds of Americans do not support caps on federal funding for Medicaid, the vast majority (84%) say that continuing federal funding for Medicaid expansion is important, and few (12%) want decreased federal spending on Medicaid.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Paradise J. (2017 May 9). 10 things to know about medicaid: setting the facts straight [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.kff.org/medicaid/issue-brief/10-things-to-know-about-medicaid-setting-the-facts-straight/

 


Workers Might See Employer Health Coverage Disappear Under New GOP AHCA

Do you receive your healthcare through an employer? Then take a look at this article from Benefits Pro about how the passing of the AHCA will affect employees who get their healthcare through an employer by Marlene Y. Satter.

It’s not just individuals without employer health coverage who could lose big under the newly revised version of the Republicans’ American Health Care Act.

People who get health coverage from their jobs could be left swinging in the wind, too—in fact, as many as half of all such employees could be affected.

That’s according to an Alternet report that says an amendment added to the bill currently being considered by the House of Representatives would allow insurers in states that get waivers from regulations put in place by the Affordable Care Act to deny coverage for 10 types of health services—including maternity care, prescription drugs, mental health treatment and hospitalization.

An MSNBC report points out that “because the Republican-led House is scrambling to pass a bill without scrutiny or serious consideration,” the last-minute amendment’s full effects aren’t even known, since “[t]his is precisely the sort of detail that would’ve come to light much sooner if Republicans were following the American legislative process. In fact, this may not even be the intended goal of the GOP policy.”

While the ACA prohibits employer-based plans from imposing annual limits on coverage and bare lifetime caps on 10 essential benefits, the Obama administration did loosen those restrictions back in 2011, saying that employers could instead choose to follow another state’s required benefits.

What the new Republican take on the AHCA does is push that further—a lot further—by allowing large employers to pick the benefit requirements for any state. That would let them limit coverage on such costly types of care as mental health and substance abuse services.

In a Wall Street Journal report, Andy Slavitt, former acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under President Barack Obama, is quoted saying, “It’s huge. They’re creating a backdoor way to gut employer plans, too.”

The changes to employer-based plans would hit anyone not insured by Medicare or by small-business plans, because the bill includes cuts to Medicaid and changes to the individual market as well.

A report from the Brookings Institution points out that “One of the core functions of health insurance is to protect people against financial ruin and ensure that they get the care they need if they get seriously ill.” The ACA pushed insurance plans to meet that standard, it says, by requiring them to “limit enrollees’ annual out-of-pocket spending and [bar] plans from placing annual or lifetime limits on the total amount of care they would cover.”

However, while those protections against catastrophic costs “apply to almost all private insurance plans, including the plans held by the roughly 156 million people who get their coverage through an employer,” the Brookings report says, the amendment to the Republican bill “could jeopardize those protections—not just for people with individual market plans, but also for those with employer coverage.”

How? By modifying “the ‘essential health benefit’ standards that govern what types of services must be covered by individual and small group market insurance plans. The intent of the amendment is reportedly to eliminate the federal benefit standards that currently exist and instead allow each state to define its own list of essential health benefits.”

And then, with employers allowed to pick and choose which state’s regulations they’d like to follow, a loophole the size of the Capitol building would not only allow “states will set essential health benefit standards that are considerably laxer than those that are in place under the ACA,” says the report, but “large employers may have the option to pick which state’s essential health benefits requirements they wish to abide by for the purposes of these provisions.”

The result? “[T]his would likely have the effect of virtually eliminating the catastrophic protections with respect to large employers since employers could choose to pick whichever state set the laxest standards. The same outcome would be likely to occur for all private insurance policies,” the report continues, “if insurers were permitted to sell plans across state lines, as the Administration has suggested enacting through separate legislation.”

While the actual effect of the amendment is unclear, the Brookings report concludes, “there is strong reason to believe that, in practice, the definition of essential health benefits that applied to the catastrophic protections would be far weaker under the House proposal than under current law, seriously undermining these protections. These potential adverse effects on people with employer coverage, in addition to the potentially damaging effects of such changes on the individual health insurance market, are thus an important reason that policymakers should be wary of the House proposal with respect to essential health benefits.”

See the original article Here.

Source:

Satter M. (2017 May 4). Workers might see employer health coverage disappear under new GOP AHCA [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/05/04/workers-might-see-employer-health-coverage-disappe?page_all=1