How Employers Should Proceed After the AHCA’s Collapse

Take a look at the great article from Employee Benefits Advisor on what employers need to know about healthcare with the collapse of the AHCA by Alden J. Bianchi and Edward A. Lenz.

The stunning failure of the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the American Health Care Act has political and policy implications that cannot be forecasted. Nor is it clear whether or when the Trump administration and Congress will make another effort to repeal and replace, or whether Republicans will seek Democratic support in an effort to “repair,” the Affordable Care Act. Similarly, we were unable to predict whether and to what extent the AHCA’s provisions can be achieved through executive rulemaking or policy guidance.

Here are some ways the AHCA’s failure could impact employers in the near term.

Immediate impact on employers
Employers were not a major focus of the architects of the ACA, nor were they a major focus of those who crafted the AHCA. This is not surprising. These laws address healthcare systems and structures, especially healthcare financing. Rightly or wrongly, employers have not been viewed by policymakers as major stakeholders on those issues.

In a blog post published at the end of 2014, we made the following observations:

The ACA sits atop a major tectonic plate of the U.S. economy, nearly 18% of which is healthcare-related. Healthcare providers, commercial insurance carriers, and the vast Medicare/Medicaid complex are the law’s primary stakeholders. They, and their local communities, have much to lose or gain depending on how healthcare financing is regulated. The ACA is the way it is largely because of them. Far more than any other circumstance, including which political party controls which branch of government, it is the interests of the ACA’s major stakeholders that determine the law’s future. And there is no indication whatsoever that, from the perspective of these entities, the calculus that drove the ACA’s enactment has changed. U.S. employers, even the largest employers among them, are bit players in this drama. They have little leverage, so they are relegated to complying and grumbling (not necessarily in that order).

With the AHCA’s collapse, the ACA remains the law of the land for the foreseeable future. The AHCA would have zeroed out the penalties on “applicable large” employers that fail to make qualified offers of health coverage, but the bill’s failure leaves the ACA’s “play or pay” rules in full force and effect. The ACA’s reporting rules, which the AHCA would not have changed, also remain in effect. This means, among other things, that many employers, especially those with large numbers of part-time, seasonal, and temporary workers that face unique compliance challenges, will continue to be in the position of “complying and grumbling.”

This does not mean that nothing has changed. The leadership of the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and Treasury has changed, and these agencies are now likely to be more employer-friendly. Thus, even though the ACA is still the law, the regulatory tone and tenor may well be different. For example, although the current complex employer reporting rules will remain in effect, the Treasury and IRS might find administrative ways to simplify them. Similarly, any regulations issued under the ACA’s non-discrimination provisions applicable to insured health plans (assuming they are issued at all) likely will be more favorable to employers than those issued under the previous administration.

There are also unanticipated consequences of the AHCA’s failure that employers might applaud. We can think of at least two.
1. Stemming the anticipated tide of new state “play or pay” laws
The continuation of the ACA’s employer mandate likely will put on hold consideration by state and local governments of their own “play or pay” laws.

In anticipation of the repeal of the ACA’s employer mandate, the Governor of Massachusetts recently introduced a budget proposal that would reinstate mandated employer contributions to help cover the costs of increased enrollment in the Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as MassHealth. Under the proposal, employers with 11 or more full-time equivalent employees would have to offer full-time employees a minimum of $4,950 toward the cost of an employer group health plan, or make an annual contribution in lieu of coverage of $2,000 per full-time equivalent employee. While the Governor’s proposal is not explicitly conditioned on repeal of the ACA’s employer mandate, the ACA’s survival may prompt a reconsideration of that approach.

California lawmakers were also considering ACA replacement proposals, including a single-payer bill introduced last month by Democratic state senators Ricardo Lara and Toni Atkins. Had the ACA’s employer mandate been repealed, those proposals were likely just the tip of an iceberg. When the ACA was enacted in 2010, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and San Francisco were the only jurisdictions with their own healthcare mandates on the books. But in the prior two-year period, before President Obama was elected and made healthcare reform his top domestic priority, more than two dozen states had introduced various “fair share” health care reform bills aimed at employers.

Most of the state and local “play or pay” proposals would have required employers to pay a specified percentage of their payroll, or a specified dollar amount, for health care coverage. Some required employers to pay employees a supplemental hourly “health care” wage in addition to their regular wages or provide health benefits of at least equal value. California, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin considered single-payer proposals.

To be sure, any state or local “play or pay” mandates would be subject to challenge based on Federal preemption under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). While some previous “play or pay” laws were invalidated under ERISA (e.g., Maryland), others (i.e., San Francisco) were not. In sum, given the failure of the AHCA, there would appear to be no rationale, at least for now, for any new state or local “play or pay” laws to go forward.

2. Avoiding upward pressure on employer premiums as a result of Medicaid reforms
The AHCA proposed to reform Medicaid by giving greater power to the states to administer the Medicaid program. Under an approach that caps Medicaid spending, the law would have provided for “per capita allotments” and “block grants.” Under either approach, the Congressional Budget Office, in its scoring of the AHCA, predicted that far fewer individuals would be eligible for Medicaid.

According to the CBO: CBO and JCT estimate that enacting the legislation would reduce federal deficits by $337 billion over the 2017 to 2026 periods. That total consists of $323 billion in on-budget savings and $13 billion in off-budget savings. Outlays would be reduced by $1.2 trillion over the period, and revenues would be reduced by $0.9 trillion. The largest savings would come from reductions in outlays for Medicaid and from the elimination of the ACA’s subsidies for non-group health insurance.

While employers rarely pay attention to Medicaid, the AHCA gave them a reason to do so. Fewer Medicaid-eligible individuals would mean more uncompensated care — a significant portion of the costs of which would likely be passed on to employers in the form of higher premiums. As long as the ACA’s expanded Medicaid coverage provisions remain in place, premium pressure on employers will to that extent be avoided.

Long-term impact on employers
As we conceded at the beginning, it’s not clear how the Republican Congress and the Administration will react to the AHCA’s failure. If the elected representatives of both political parties are inclined to try to make the current system work, however, we can think of no better place that the prescriptions contained in a report by the American Academy of Actuaries, entitled “An Evaluation of the Individual Health Insurance Market and Implications of Potential Changes.”

The actuaries’ report does not address, much less resolve, the major policy differences between the ACA and the AHCA over the role of government — in particular, the extent to which taxpayers should be called on to fund the health care costs of low-and moderate-income individuals, and whether U.S. citizens should be required to maintain health coverage or pay a penalty. And even if lawmakers can reach consensus on those contentious issues, they still would have to agree on the proper implementing mechanisms.

But whatever the outcome, employers are unlikely to play a major role.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Bianchi A. & Lenz E. (2017 April 6). How employers should proceed after the AHCA’s collapse [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/how-employers-should-proceed-after-the-ahcas-collapse


ACA repeal bill nixed: What’s next for healthcare reform, employers?

With the fall of the AHCA find out what is next for employers in terms of healthcare from the great article at HR Morning by Christian Schappel.

The Republican’s best attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to date has been axed. Where does that leave employers, and what can they expect next? 

For starters, it leaves employers with the ACA and everything that comes with it … the employer mandatethe reporting requirements … the whole enchilada.

In other words, any organizations that relaxed their ACA compliance efforts — believing the Republican’s American Health Care Act would repeal and replace Obamacare — could be exposing themselves to non-compliance penalties.

The more complicated question is: What happens next?

A piecemeal approach?

With this appearing to be the GOP’s best shot at repealing and replacing Obamacare (or at least parts of it) in one stroke, and the party failing to push its legislation through Congress, President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) appear resigned to the fact that the ACA will remain in place indefinitely.

“We’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future,” Ryan said after announcing the GOP bill would not be voted on in the House.

Trump has even indicated that after this loss for the GOP, he wants the party to focus on other issues, like tax reform.

But that doesn’t mean health reform will be on the back burner.

It now appears that Republicans’ best course of action to implement reform changes would be to attempt to “fix” parts of the ACA that are deemed to not be working. And it could do that by including small healthcare provisions in other pieces of legislation, like future tax reform bills.

Trump and his fellow Republicans could also seek to offer concessions to Democrats in future legislation as a means to get members of the left to agree to include certain provisions of the American Health Care Act in future bills.

Example, Republicans are still expected to push hard for a rollback of the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid, and members of the GOP could seek to include rollback provisions in future tax reform legislation in exchange for proposing a tax reform plan Democrats would find more palatable.

How did we get here?

So why did the American Health Care Act fail, despite Republicans controlling the House, Senate and White House?

The answer starts with the fact that the GOP didn’t have the 60 seats in the Senate to avoid a filibuster by the Democrats. In other words, despite being the majority party, it didn’t have enough votes to pass a broad ACA repeal bill outright.

As a result, Senate Republicans had to use a process known as reconciliation to attempt to reshape the ACA. Reconciliation is a process that allows for the passage of budget bills with 51 votes instead of 60. So the GOP could vote on budgetary pieces of the health law, without giving the Democrats a chance to filibuster.

The problem for Republicans was reconciliation severely limited the extent to which they could reshape the law — and it’s a big reason the why American Health Care Act looked, at least to some, like “Obamacare Lite.”

Ultimately, what caused Trump and Ryan to decide to pull the bill before the House had a chance to vote on it was that so many House Republicans voiced displeasure with the bill and said they wouldn’t vote for it.

Specifically, here are some of what conservatives didn’t like about the American Health Care Act:

  • it largely left a lot of the ACA’s “entitlements” intact — like government aid for purchasing insurance
  • it didn’t do enough to curtail the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid
  • too many of the ACA’s insurance coverage mandates would remain in place
  • the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the bill would result in some 24 million Americans losing insurance within the next decade, and
  • it didn’t do enough to drive down the cost of insurance coverage in general.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Schappel C. (2017 March 29). ACA repeal bill nixed: what’s next for healthcare reform, employers? [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.hrmorning.com/aca-repeal-bill-nixed-whats-next-for-healthcare-reform/


CBO estimate of AHCA impact on employer-sponsored benefits is off the mark

Does the implementation of the AHCA have you worried about your employee benefits? Take a look at this great article from Employee Benefit News about what the implementaion of the AHCA will mean for employers by Joel Wood.

In breaking down the Congressional Budget Office’s assessment of the proposed American Health Care Act, let’s look at the impact of the AHCA on employer-sponsored plans. The CBO estimates that 2 million fewer Americans will have employer-sponsored coverage in 2020, growing to seven million by 2027. Here’s CBO’s rationale:

  • The mandate penalties are eliminated, and thus many will drop.
  • The tax credits are available to people with a broader range of incomes than the Obamacare credits/subsidies
  • Some employers will drop coverage and increase compensation in the belief that non-group insurance is a close substitute.

These are valid points. The CBO experts are basing their estimates on sound economics and inside the constraints of their authority, and so of course we worry about any proposal that devolves employer-sponsored care. But, we also have to note that the CBO said much the same about the Affordable Care Act, which largely didn’t happen. And CBO notwithstanding, we at the Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers, too, feared something of a death spiral after the ACA was enacted.

The ACA’s employer penalties were very small in comparison to premiums, and it made sense that many would dump their plans, give their employees cash, and send them to the subsidized exchanges. Also, the subsidies were pretty rich — graduating out at 400% of the poverty line. That’s more than $90,000 for a family of four.

What we didn’t take into account in reference to the ACA were a number of things:

  • A core assumption of the ACA was that states would all be forced to expand Medicaid to 138% of the poverty line, and the exchange subsidies would kick in above that amount. The courts struck that down and 19 (all-red) states never adopted the expansion, creating a massive donut hole.
  • We underestimated how chaotic would be the rollout of Healthcare.gov.
  • We knew the exchanges would be a model of adverse selection, but a “bailout” of insurance carriers through the “risk corridor” program was supposed to keep them in the game. Republicans balked, sued, and the reinsurance payments have been so lacking that most of the exchanges are currently in a “death spiral” (as described by Mark Bertolini, CEO of Aetna).

So employer-sponsored health insurance has, well, thrived since the enactment of the ACA — perhaps in spite of it, not because of it.

If the CBO is correct and seven million people lose ESI over the next decade, that’s problematic. But it ignores other opportunities that are being created through the proposed GOP bill and Trump Administration executive actions.

Employers-sponsored opportunities
Republicans propose significant expansion of HSAs that will compliment higher-deductible ESI plans. They want work-arounds for state mandates on essential health benefits, even though their goal of “buying across state lines” can’t be realized through the tricky budget reconciliation process. And, ultimately, Republicans want to realize the potential for the ACA wellness provisions that have been eviscerated through years of EEOC/ADA/GINA conflicts. That would be a big win for employers.

The most important tradeoff between the “discussion draft” of a few weeks ago and the AHCA is that GOP House leaders junked their plan to tax 10% of employee contributions for ESI plans, in favor of pushing the Cadillac tax out five more years, to 2025.

Personally, I figure I’ve got another decade left in me to lobby for this industry, and that would get me eight years along the way. That’s a terrific tradeoff in my book, especially as Ways & Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) emphasized he never intends for that tax to go into effect — it’s purely a budgetary gimmick. And, it’s a ridiculous “score” from CBO anyway. Everybody knows that no employer is going to pay that tax; they’ll work their plan design to get under the numbers.

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My conclusions at this moment in time, thus, are:

  • Have we won the war among GOP leaders with respect to “hands off” of ESI while trying to solve the death-spiral problems in the individual/exchange marketplace? Not yet. We won a battle, not a war. Sadly and frustratingly, too many Republican leaders have bought into the elite conservative/libertarian economic intelligentsia that pure consumerism should drive healthcare, and that ESI is an “historic accident.” As our friend Ed Fensholt at Lockton always says, “Penicillin was an historic accident, too, but look how that turned out.”
  • Was former Speaker John Boehner right recently when he said that there’s no way you can get to the requisite 51 votes in the Senate right now with this current AHCA construct? You bet he was right. If you do the House plan and defund Planned Parenthood, you lose votes of pro-choice Republicans in the Senate. If Ryan and Trump relent to the Freedom Caucus on hacking the Medicaid expansion in 2018 instead of 2020, they’ll lose votes of Republicans in Medicaid-expanded states. In any event, they probably lose the votes of Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and a number of other Republicans who view the AHCA as “Obamacare Lite” and demand a more straightforward repeal.
  • Was Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) right when he said this on Face the Nation recently? “Look,” he said, “the most important thing for a person like myself who runs for office and tells the people we’re asking to hire us, ‘This is what I’ll do if I get elected.’ And then if you don’t do that, you’re breaking your word.” You bet he’s right. Republicans ran on this. They voted 60 times in the House to repeal the ACA. If they can’t do this, they can’t do tax reform, they can’t do 12 appropriations bills. Their margins for error (21 votes in the House; two in the Senate) are almost impossibly narrow, and the press hates this bill. But I wouldn’t pronounce this effort dead, by a long stretch.

Sometimes, when lobbying blank-faced Republican leaders on the importance of ESI, I feel like the old BB King lyric: “Nobody loves me but my mother, and she could be jivin’, too.”
But because of, or in spite of, current legislative efforts that are dominating the headlines, I feel relatively well-poised for ESI to continue to be the means through which a majority of Americans receive the health insurance they like and they want to keep. Our job is for them to keep it. Notwithstanding lots of obstacles, we will.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Wood J. (2017 March 21). CBO estimate of AHCA impact on employer-sponsored benefits is off the mark [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/cbo-estimate-of-ahca-impact-on-employer-sponsored-benefits-is-off-the-mark


How are your retirement health care savings stacking up?

Are you properly investing in your health saving account? Take a look at the this article from Benefits Pro about the importance of saving money for your healthcare by Reese Feuerman.

For all ages, it’s imperative to balance near-term and long-term savings goals, but the makeup of those savings goals has changed dramatically over the past 10 years.

With the continued rise in health care costs, and increased cost sharing between employers and employees, more employees and employers have been migrating to consumer-driven health care (CDH) to provide lower-cost alternatives.

With the increased adoption in these plans for employee cost savings purposes, employers have likewise realized similar cost savings to their bottom line. But what role does CDH play in the long term?

Republicans trying to find a way to repeal the ACA are turning to health savings accounts — new ones, called…

The Greatest Generation was able to rely on their pensions, Social Security, Medicaid, and the like as a means to support them in retirement for both medical and living expenses. However, as the Baby Boomers continue their journey towards retirement, reliance upon future proof retirement funds are fading into the sunset for coming generations. According to a 2015 study from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), 29% of American’s 55 and older do not have money set aside in a pension plan or alternative retirement plan.

To make matters worse, some experts are forecasting Social Security funding will be depleted by 2034, leaving even more retirees potentially without a plan. As such, Generation X and beyond must look for more creatives measures for savings to make up the difference.

In 1978, 401(k) plans were introduced to provide the workforce with a secondary means for retirement savings while also providing significant tax benefits. However, even when actively funded, with rising health care costs and a depleted Social Security system—the solution this workforce has paid into for their entire career—will not be enough.

According to Healthview Services, the average retiree couple will spend $288,000 for just health care expenses during retirement. This sum could easily consume one-third of total retiree savings. This is a contributing factor to the rise and rapid adoption of tax-advantage health accounts to supplement retirement savings. Introduced to the market in 2003, Health Savings Accounts (HSA) have provided employees with an option to set aside pre-tax funds to either cover current year health care expenses, like the familiar Flexible Spending Account (FSA), or carry over the funds year-over-year to pay for medical expenses later or during retirement. The pretax money employees are able to set aside in these accounts to cover health care expenses, will over time, be on par with retirement savings contributions, such as a 401(k) and 403(b), because of increasing costs and triple-tax savings.

It is important for consumers to understand these retirement options and how they could be leveraged for greater financial wealth. As a result, the Health Care Stack, an analysis authored by ConnectYourCare, acts as a life savings model and illustrates the amount of pretax money consumers can contribute for both their lifestyle and health expenses in retirement.

For illustrative purposes, according to current IRS guidelines, the average American under the age of 50 could set aside up to $24,750 each year pre-tax for retirement to cover their health care and living expenses. In this example, if a worker in his or her 30s starts to set aside the maximum contributions (based on IRS guidelines) for HSA contributions, assuming a rate of return of 3%, they would have $330,000 saved in their HSA to cover health care expenses once they reach the retirement age of 65. This number could be even greater if President Trump’s administration passes any number of proposed bills to increase the HSA contribution limits to match the maximum out-of-pocket expenses included in high deductible health plans. This allocation would not only cover average medical expenses, but also provide a triple-tax advantage for consumers from now through retirement.

In addition to the long-term retirement goals, the yearly pre-tax savings may be even greater if notional accounts are factored in, with approved IRS limits of a $2,600 per year maximum for Flexible Spending Accounts, $5,000 per year maximum for Dependent Care FSA, and $6,120 per year maximum for commuter plans. This equals $38,470 (or $44,820 if HSA contributions increase) of pre-tax contributions that consumers could save by offsetting the tax burden and could invest towards retirement.

For those consumers over the age of 50, the savings potential is even greater as they can contribute to a post retirement catch-up for their 401K plans equaling a total of $24,000, plus they may take advantage of the $6,750 HSA savings, as well as the additional $1,000 catch up. If certain proposed bills are passed, the increase could be $38,100 a year that they could set aside, in pre-tax assets, for retirement.

Not only will an individual’s expenses be covered, but there are other benefits brought forth by proper planning, including the potential to reach ones retirement savings goals early. Let’s say that after meeting with a licensed financial investor it was determined that an individual needed $1.8 million in order to retire, and according to national averages, close to $288,000 to cover health care costs.

Given the proper investment strategy around contributions to both retirement and  HSA plans, an individual could – theoretically -save enough to meet their retirement investment needs by the age of 60 for both lifestyle and health care expense coverage, if they started making careful investments in their 20s (assuming the worker is making $50,000 per year with a 3% annual increase).

In comparison, under current proposals, which include the increased HSA limits, retirement savings could be achieved even earlier with the coverage threshold being at 57 for the average worker. This is a tremendous opportunity to transform retirement investment programs for all American workers who would otherwise be left on their own. Talk about the American dream!

While there is not a one-size fits all strategy, it is important for everyone to understand their options and see how these pretax accounts outlined in the Health Care Stack play an important consideration in ones future retirement planning.

Taking the time now to fully understand tax-favored benefit accounts will provide him or her with the appropriate coverage to enjoy life well into their golden years. Retirement is just around the corner, are you ready?

See the original article Here.

Source:

Feuerman (2017 March 02). How are your retirement health care savings stacking up?[Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/03/02/how-are-your-retirement-health-care-savings-stacki?ref=hp-in-depth


Employers embrace new strategies to cut healthcare costs

Are you looking for a new solution for cutting your healthcare cost? Take a look at the great article from Employee Benefits Advisor about what other employers are doing to cut their cost healthcare cost by Phil Albinus.

As employers await a new health plan to replace the Affordable Care Act and consensus grows that high deductible health plans (HDHPs) are not the perfect vehicle for cutting healthcare costs, employers are incorporating innovative strategies to achieve greater savings.

Employers are offering HSAs, wellness incentives and price transparency tools at higher rates in an effort to cut the costs of their employee health plans. And when savings appear to plateau, they are implementing innovative reward plans to those who adopt these benefits, according to the 2017 Medical Plan Trends and Observation Report conducted by employee-engagement firm DirectPath and research firm CEB. They examined 975 employee benefit plans to analyze how they functioned in terms of plan design, cost savings measures and options for care.

The report found that 67% of firms offer HSAs while only 15% offer employee-funded Health Reimbursement Arrangements. As “use of high deductible plans seem to have (at least temporarily) plateaued under the current uncertainty around the future of the ACA, employer contributions to HSAs increased almost 10%,” according to the report.

Wellness programs continue to gain traction. Fifty-eight percent of 2017 plans offer some type of wellness incentive, which is up from 50% in 2016. When it comes to price transparency tools, 51% of employers offer them to help employees choose the best service, and 18% plan to add similar tools in the next three years. When these tools are used, price comparison requests saw an average employee savings of $173 per procedure and average employer savings of $409 per procedure, according to CEB research.

“What was interesting was the level of creativity within these incentives and surcharges. There were paycheck credits, gift cards, points that could be redeemed for rewards,” says Kim Buckey, vice president of client services at DirectPath. “One employer reduced the co-pays for office visits to $20 if you participated in the wellness program. We are seeing a level of creativity that we haven’t seen before.”

Surcharges on tobacco use has gone down while surcharges for non-employees such as spouses has risen. “While the percentage of organizations with spousal surcharges remained static (26% in 2017, as compared to 27% in 2016), average surcharge amounts increased dramatically to $152 per month, a more than 40% increase from 2016,” according to the report.

Tobacco surcharges going down “is reflective of employers putting incentives in, so they are taking a carrot approach instead of the stick,” says Buckey.

Telemedicine adoption appears to be mired in confusion among employees. More than 55% of employees with access to these programs were not aware of their availability, and almost 60% of employees who have telemedicine programs don’t feel they are easy to access, according to a separate CEB survey.

Employers seem to be introducing transparency and wellness programs because the savings from HDHPs appear to have plateaued, says Buckey. She also noted recent research that HSAs only deliver initial savings at the expense of the employee’s health.

“With high deductible plans and HSAs, there has been a lot of noise how they aren’t the silver bullet in controlling costs. Some researchers find that it has a three-year effect on costs because employees delay getting care and by the time they get it, it’s now an acute or chronic condition instead of something that could have been headed off early,” she says.

“And there is a tremendous lack of understanding on how these plans work for lower income employees, [it’s] hard to set aside money for those plans,” she says.

Educating employees to be smarter healthcare consumers is key. “What is becoming really obvious is that there is room to play in all these areas of cost shifting and high deductible plans and wellness but we can no longer put them in place and hope for the best,” she says. We have to focus on educating employees and their families,” she says. “If we are expecting them to act like consumers, we have to arm them with the tools. Most people don’t know where to start.”

She adds, “we know how to shop for a TV or car insurance but 99% of people don’t know where to start to figure out where to shop for prescription drugs or for the hospital where to have your knee surgery. Or if you get different prices from different hospitals, how do you even make the choice?”

When asked if the results of this year’s report surprised her – Buckey has worked on the past five – she said yes and no.

Given that the data is based on information from last summer for plans that would be in effect by 2017, she concedes that given the current political climate “a lot is up in the air.” Most employers were hesitant to make substantive changes to their plans due to the election, she says. We may see the same thing this year as changes are made to the ACA and the Cadillac Tax, she adds.

“What I was interested in were the incremental changes and some of the creativity being applied to longstanding issues of getting costs under control,” she says.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Albinus P. (2017 March 05). Employers embrace new strategies to cut healthcare costs [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/employers-embrace-new-strategies-to-cut-healthcare-costs?brief=00000152-1443-d1cc-a5fa-7cfba3c60000


Health Savings Accounts: What You Need to Know

Updated March 2017 by our partners at United Benefits Advisors:  Stay in the know of how Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) work and how you can use them properly.

A health savings account (HSA) is a tax-exempt trust or custodial account set up with a qualified HSA trustee (such as a bank or insurance company) that is used to pay or reimburse certain medical expenses.

HSAs were first available as of January 1, 2004, and have grown greatly in popularity. An eligible individual (with or without employer involvement) can establish an HSA. Eligible participating individuals can make contributions, up to statutory limits, and get a tax deduction. Investment earnings on HSA accounts are tax free, and HSA funds used to pay qualified medical expenses are completely tax free. Employers contributing to their eligible employees’ HSAs, or that offer HSAs through a cafeteria plan also receive federal tax deductions for the contributions.

As a result of these benefits, HSAs are highly regulated; by Internal Revenue Code Section 223, as well as numerous IRS notices and guidance documents. IRS Publication 969 provides a basic overview of HSA regulations for employers and employees.

Eligibility

To be an eligible individual and qualify for an HSA, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You must be covered under a high deductible health plan (HDHP) on the first day of the month.
  • You have no other disqualifying health coverage except what is permitted.
  • You are not enrolled in Medicare.
  • You cannot be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return for the year.

High Deductible Health Plan

In order to participate in an HSA, an individual must be covered under an HDHP on the first day of the month. In 2016, that means the individual must have an annual deductible of at least $1,300 for self-only coverage, and the deductible and out-of-pocket expense cannot exceed $6,550. These dollar figures change annually. For an individual enrolled in family coverage (or, other than self-only), the deductible must be at least $2,600 in 2016, and the deductible and out-of-pocket expenses cannot exceed $13,100. 2 ©2017 United Benefit Advisors, LLC. All rights reserved. The HDHP must provide “significant benefits;” for example it could not exclude in-patient care or hospitalizations, be a fixed indemnity benefit, or only cover certain specified diseases such as cancer.

Other Disqualifying Coverage

See full download for corresponding data.

Disqualifying coverage problems can be difficult for employees to understand, and care should be taken to educate them on what disqualifying coverage is.

  • Example: Adam and Susan are married; Adam is a full-time employee at The Auto Dealer and enrolls in its HDHP. Susan is a full-time employee at The Dry Cleaner and enrolls in its HMO plan with an FSA. Both Adam and Susan enroll in single-only coverage. Because Susan now has an FSA, which the IRS allows her to spend on Adam even if she has single-only coverage, Adam is no longer HSA eligible because he is now covered by disqualifying coverage (even if Susan does not spend any of the FSA on Adam’s qualifying expenses). If Susan chose to enroll in The Dry Cleaner’s limited purpose FSA instead of the general purpose FSA, Adam could maintain his HSA eligibility.

Interplay Between Health FSAs and HSAs

Special issues can arise when an employer offers multiple benefit plans, including a traditional health plan with an FSA account, and an HDHP with an HSA account. These same issues arise when an employer looks to change the benefit plan it offers from a traditional plan with an FSA and an HDHP with an HSA.

When an individual has an FSA, they have coverage that disqualifies them from being HSA eligible. The question becomes, when are they considered to have “dropped” the FSA in order to gain HSA eligibility? The answer is different depending on the FSA’s plan design and whether the individual has a remaining balance at the end of the plan year.

Health FSA with a Grace Period

See full download for corresponding data.

Health FSA with Carryovers

See full download for corresponding data.

Medicare

Being entitled to Medicare makes an individual ineligible for an HSA, even if the individual is enrolled in a qualifying HDHP.

Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 223 reads: “Medicare eligible individuals. The [contribution limit] under this subsection for any month with respect to an individual shall be zero for the first month such individual is entitled to benefits under title XVIII of the Social Security Act and for each month thereafter.”

Being eligible for and being entitled to Medicare are not the same. Individuals become entitled to Medicare through their age, through disability, or due to end stage renal disease (ESRD).

Individuals are entitled to Medicare once they are 65 years old and they either have applied for and are receiving benefits from the Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board, or, are eligible for monthly retirement benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board (but have not applied for them) but have filed an application for Medicare Part A.

For an individual who is working and aged 65 or over to maintain HSA eligibility he or she must:

  • Not apply for or waive Medicare Part A, and
  • Not apply for Medicare Part B, and
  • Waive or delay Social Security benefits.

When employment-related coverage ends, the individual has eight months to enroll in Medicare Part A, which, once effective, will be effective for six months retroactively, but no earlier than the first day of eligibility.

Retroactive Medicare Coverage

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.

Dependent Status

Individuals who can be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return are not HSA eligible.

  • Example: Anna is 15 years old and is claimed as a dependent on her parent’s taxes. Her mom, Caroline, has enrolled in family HDHP coverage through her employer and has established an HSA to which she can contribute up to the full family amount. Anna does not have any other disqualifying coverage, but she cannot establish an HSA because she is claimed as a dependent on her parent’s taxes.

Another complicated wrinkle in dependent status and HSAs involves whose expenses can be reimbursed from the HSA. HSAs can only reimburse the expenses of the employee, spouse, and tax dependents as defined by IRS Code Section 223(d)(2)(A) (even if the person is not eligible to set up his or her own HSA) if the expense was incurred after the HSA is established.

  • Example: Samuel is 24 years old and is not claimed as a dependent on his parent’s taxes. His mom, Caroline, has enrolled in family HDHP coverage through her employer (which covers Samuel) and has established an HSA into which she can contribute up to the full family amount. Samuel does not have any other disqualifying coverage, and he can establish his own HSA (although his employer is unlikely to allow him to put pre-tax dollars into it). Caroline cannot spend her HSA dollars on Samuel’s medical expenses, despite the fact that he is covered under the family HDHP. That is because Samuel is not a tax dependent of his parent.

Determining Eligibility; Changes in Eligibility

An individual’s eligibility is determined on a monthly basis, on the first day of the month.

If an individual is enrolled in single HDHP coverage on the first day of September (and has no disqualifying coverage), the individual is eligible to contribute up to the full single contribution limit for the month (1/12 of the annual limit) of September, as well as October, November, and December. If an individual enrolls on the 15th of September in single HDHP coverage (and has no disqualifying coverage), the individual can begin contributing up to the full single contribution limit for the months of October, November, and December, but not the month of September. That is because the individual was not HSA eligible on the first day of September. If an individual changes from family to single coverage, or vice versa, the limit for that month is based on the individual’s coverage as of the first day of the month.

Contribution

The amount you or any other person can contribute to your HSA depends on the type of HDHP coverage you have, your age, the date you become an eligible individual, and the date you cease to be an eligible individual. For 2016, if you have self-only HDHP coverage, you can contribute up to $3,350. If you have family HDHP coverage, you can contribute up to $6,750.

The “last-month” rule also provides that individuals who are eligible for an HSA on December 1 (the last month of the year), are considered eligible for the entire year. The individual is considered to have the HDHP coverage on December 1 for the entire year.

If an individual changes from family to single coverage during the year, the individual’s maximum contribution amount is calculated as (X/12 x $6,750) + (Y/12 x $3,350) = $____. The dollar figures used in the formula will change annually based on the IRS contribution limits.

X represents the number of months the individual was eligible under family coverage; Y represents the months the individual was eligible for single coverage.

Individuals who reach age 55 by the end of the taxable year have their contribution limit increased by $1,000, regardless of the tier of coverage they are enrolled in. This is called a “catch-up” contribution. A married couple, both age 55 or older, can make two catch-up contributions, but there must be a separate HSA for each spouse. Because HSAs are individual trusts, spouses cannot have a joint HSA (but each spouse can spend his or her individual HSA dollars on the spouse’s medical expenses).

The IRS has a “special rule” for married individuals that allows a couple to divide the maximum HSA contribution between spouses so long as one of them has family HDHP coverage, and neither has disqualifying coverage. The IRS provides the following example:

  • For 2015, Mr. Auburn and his wife are both eligible individuals. They each have family coverage under separate HDHPs. Mr. Auburn is 58 years old and Mrs. Auburn is 53. Mr. and Mrs. Auburn can split the family contribution limit ($6,650) equally or they can agree on a different division. If they split it equally, Mr. Auburn can contribute $4,325 to an HSA (one-half the maximum contribution for family coverage ($3,325) + $1,000 additional contribution) and Mrs. Auburn can contribute $3,325 to an HSA.

Beginning the first month an individual is enrolled in Medicare (or entitled to Medicare) the contribution limit is zero.

  • Example: Marie turned age 65 in July 2016 and enrolled in Medicare. She had an HDHP with selfonly coverage and is eligible for an additional contribution of $1,000. Her contribution limit is $2,175 ($4,350 × 6 ÷ 12).

If an individual makes contributions in excess of the IRS annual limits, he or she must pay a 6 percent excise tax on the excess contributions, and the excise tax will apply to each year the excess contribution remains in the individual’s account. The excise tax is paid with IRS Form 5329.

Employer Contributions

Employers may contribute to an employee’s HSA, but their contributions count toward the individual’s total contribution limit for the year.

One of two sets of nondiscrimination rules applies to HSA contributions from employers. If the employer makes contributions through a Section 125/cafeteria plan, the contributions are included in the plan’s cafeteria plan nondiscrimination testing. These rules generally prohibit employers from favoring highly compensated or key employees.

Comparable contributions. If the employer does not include the HSA in its Section 125/cafeteria plan, it is subject to the comparable contributions rule.

In this case, if an employer makes contributions, it must make comparable contributions to all comparable participating employees’ HSAs. Contributions are comparable if they are either:

  • The same amount, or
  • The same percentage of the annual deductible limit under the HDHP covering the employees.

This rule prohibits employers from implementing HSA “matching” programs, or using HSA contributions as a wellness incentive.

Comparable participating employees:

  • Are covered by their HDHP and are eligible to establish an HSA,
  • Have the same category of coverage (either self-only or family coverage), and
  • Have the same category of employment (part-time, full-time, or former employees).

Distributions

Individuals may receive tax-free distributions from their HSA to pay or be reimbursed for qualified medical expenses incurred after the establishment of the HSA. If an individual loses HSA eligibility at any point, he or she can continue to spend remaining HSA dollars on qualified medical expenses.

HSA-qualified expenses are all medical expenses allowed by IRC Section 213, except insurance premiums (unless for COBRA, long-term care insurance or Medicare supplemental, which may be reimbursed). If you use HSA funds to pay premiums for COBRA, long-term care insurance, or Medicare supplement coverage, you cannot claim the health coverage tax credit for those premiums.

Qualified medical expense incurred overseas may be paid with an HSA. Care should be taken to ensure the expense is documented and meets the requirements under IRC Section 213.

Non-prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications other than insulin are not considered a qualified medical expense, unless you have a prescription for it. For example, if your physician wrote you a prescription for aspirin or pre-natal vitamins, you could purchase them over-the-counter with your HSA funds.

Qualified medical expenses are those incurred by the following persons.

  1. You and your spouse
  2. All dependents you claim on your tax return
  3. Any person you could have claimed as a dependent on your return except if:
    • The person filed a joint return,
    • The person had gross income of $4,000 or more, or
    • You, or your spouse if filing jointly, could be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s return.

A child of parents who are divorced (or separated, or living apart for the last six months of a calendar year) are treated as the dependents of both parents, regardless of whether the custodial parent releases the claim to the child’s exemption.

HSAs also have prohibited transactions, including the lending of money between the individual and the HSA. This means that, if an individual overdraws the HSA account (which is considered lending money), the individual loses HSA eligibility for the entire year, and will be subjected to an additional 20 percent excise tax. Federal law will require the bank operating the HSA to close it, and the individual cannot reopen the account at that bank, or any other bank, for the entire year.

HSA holders are obligated to keep sufficient records to show that any distributions from their HSA were used exclusively to pay or reimburse qualified medical expenses, that the expense was not paid previously or from another source, and that the individual did not take the expense as an itemized deduction in any year.

3/10/17

See full download for corresponding data.


Compliance Recap February 2017

Stay up-to-date with the most recent ACA regulations thanks to our partners at United Benefits Advisor (UBA)

February had relatively little activity in the employee benefits world because a new Secretary of the Department of Health and Humans (HHS) was recently confirmed and HHS started its rulemaking under the new administration.

On February 10, 2017, the U.S. Senate confirmed Rep. Tom Price as the new Secretary of HHS, who has a budget of more than $1 trillion, the largest budget of any Cabinet secretary. HHS administers the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicare, and Medicaid, and oversees other programs and agencies.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) extended its transitional policy for nongrandfathered coverage in the small group and individual health insurance markets. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) delayed the deadline for small employers to provide its initial written notices to employees regarding Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangements (QSE HRAs). CMS proposed a rule on ACA market stabilization.

HHS issued its Annual Civil Monetary Penalties Inflation Adjustment to reflect required inflation-related increases to the civil monetary penalties in its regulations. The IRS released a letter that discusses retroactive Medicare coverage’s effect on HSA contributions. Also, the IRS announced that it will not automatically reject individual tax returns when the taxpayer failed to indicate continuous coverage, failed to claim an exemption from the individual mandate, or failed to pay the penalty.

UBA Updates

UBA released three new advisors in February:

  •  CMS’ Proposed Rule on ACA Market Stabilization
  • Medicare Part D: Creditable Coverage Disclosures
  • Health Insurance Marketplace Notice and OMB Expiration Date

UBA updated existing guidance:

  •  Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangements FAQ

CMS Allows States to Extend Life of “Grandmothered” or Transitional Health Insurance Policies

On February 23, 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released its Insurance Standards Bulletin Series, in which it re-extended its transitional policy for non-grandfathered coverage in the small group and individual health insurance markets.

States may permit issuers that have renewed policies under the transitional policy continually since 2014 to renew such coverage for a policy year starting on or before October 1, 2018; however, any policies renewed under this transitional policy must not extend past December 31, 2018.

If permitted by applicable state authorities, health insurance issuers may choose to continue certain coverage that would otherwise be cancelled, and affected individuals and small businesses may choose to re-enroll in such coverage.

As background, CMS’ transitional policy was first announced in November 14, 2013; CMS had most recently extended the transitional policy on February 29, 2016, for an additional year for policy years beginning on or before October 1, 2017, provided that all policies end by December 31, 2017.

Policies subject to the transitional relief are not considered to be out of compliance with the ACA’s single risk pool requirement or the following Public Health Service Act (PHS Act) provisions:

  • Section 2701 – relating to fair health insurance premiums
  • Section 2702 – relating to guaranteed availability of coverage
  • Section 2703 – relating to guaranteed renewability of coverage
  • Section 2704 – relating to the prohibition of pre-existing condition exclusions or other discrimination based on health status, with respect to adults, except with respect to group coverage
  • Section 2705 – relating to the prohibition of discrimination against individual participants and beneficiaries based on health status, except with respect to group coverage
  • Section 2706 – relating to non-discrimination in health care
  • Section 2707 – relating to comprehensive health insurance coverage
  • Section 2709 – relating to coverage for individuals participating in approved clinical trials

However, issuers can choose to adopt some of or all these provisions in their renewed policies.

IRS Delays Initial Notice Requirements for QSE HRAs

Under the 21st Century Cures Act, small employers that want to reimburse individual health coverage premiums through HRAs called “Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangements” (QSE HRAs) must provide annual written notice to all eligible employees no later than 90 days before the beginning of the benefit year.

On February 27, 2017, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued Notice 2017-20 that delays the initial written notice deadline. The Department of the Treasury and the IRS intend to issue guidance to provide employers with additional time to furnish the initial notice to employees; the extended deadline will be no earlier than 90 days following the issuance of future guidance. Further, no penalties will be imposed for failure to provide the initial notice before the extended deadline.

CMS’ Proposed Rule on ACA Market Stabilization

On February 17, 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a proposed rule to stabilize the health insurance market and address risks to the individual and small group markets. CMS proposes changes to guaranteed availability of coverage, network adequacy, essential community providers, open enrollment periods, special enrollment periods, continuous coverage, and standards for the Exchanges.

The proposed changes primarily affect the individual market. However, to the extent that employers have fully-insured plans, some of the proposed changes will affect those employers’ plans because the changes affect standards that apply to issuers.

Public comments are due by March 7, 2017.

HHS Civil Monetary Penalties Increase

On February 3, 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued its Annual Civil Monetary Penalties Inflation Adjustment to reflect required inflation-related increases to the civil monetary penalties in its regulations. Here are some of the adjustments:

  • Medical Loss Ratio report and rebating: The maximum penalty increases to $111 per day, per individual affected by the violation.
  • Summary of Benefits and Coverage: For failure to provide, the maximum penalty increases to $1,105 per failure.
  • HIPAA: The penalty range increases to a minimum penalty of $112 up to a maximum of $55,910 per violation, and the maximum penalty for all violations of an identical requirement in a calendar year increases to $1,677,299.

Most adjustments are effective for penalties assessed after February 3, 2017, for violations occurring after November 2, 2015. The HIPAA penalty adjustments are effective for penalties assessed after February 3, 2017, for violations occurring on or after February 18, 2009.

IRS Letter Regarding the 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.

Individual Mandate – IRS Will Not Reject Silent Returns

For 2016 returns, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) intended to reject electronically filed “silent returns,” when the taxpayer failed to indicate continuous coverage on Line 61, failed to file a Form 8965 to claim an exemption from the individual mandate, or failed to pay the penalty.

On February 15, 2017, the IRS issued a statement that it would change course and process silent returns. This means that returns without a completed Line 61 will not be systemically rejected by the IRS at the time of filing. The IRS determined that allowing returns to be accepted for processing – when a taxpayer doesn’t indicate health insurance coverage status – is consistent with the January 20, 2017, Executive Order directing federal agencies to exercise authority and discretion to reduce potential burden under the ACA.

Per the IRS, the ACA’s provisions are still in force until changed by Congress; further, taxpayers remain required to follow the law and pay what they may owe. The IRS indicates that if it has questions about a return, it will follow up with correspondence and questions to taxpayers at a future date, after the filing process is complete.

Please be aware that this change in IRS policy for individual filers does not affect employer reporting.

To download the full compliance click Here.


HSAs could play bigger role in retirement planning

Did you know that ACA repeal could have and effect on health savings plans (HRA)? Read this interesting article from Benefits Pro about how the repeal of the ACA might affect your HRAs by Marlene Y. Satter

With the repeal of the Affordable Care Act looming, one surprising factor in paying for health care could see its star rise higher on the horizon—the retirement planning horizon, that is. That’s the Health Savings Account—and it’s likely to become more prominent depending on what replaces the ACA.

HSAs occupy a larger role in some of the proposed replacements to the ACA put forth by Republican legislators, and with that greater exposure comes a greater likelihood that more people will rely on them more heavily to get them through other changes.

For one thing, they’ll need to boost their savings in HSAs just to pay the higher deductibles and uncovered expenses that are likely to accompany the ACA repeal.

But for another—and here’s where it gets interesting—they’ll probably become a larger part of retirement planning, since they provide a number of benefits already that could help boost retirement savings.

Contributions are already deductible from gross income, but under at least one of the proposals to replace the ACA, contributions could come with refundable tax credits—a nice perk.

Another proposal would allow HSA funds to pay for premiums on proposed new state health exchanges without a tax penalty for doing so—also beneficial. And a third would expand eligibility to have HSAs, which would be helpful.

But whether these and other possible enhancements to HSAs come to pass, there are already plenty of reasons to consider bolstering HSA savings for retirement. As workers try to navigate their way through the uncertainty that lies ahead, they’ll probably rely even more on the features these plans already offer—such as the ability to leave funds in the account (if not needed for higher medical expenses) to roll over from year to year and to grow for the future, and the fact that interest on HSA money is tax free.

But possibly the biggest benefit to an HSA for retirement is the fact that funds invested in one grow tax free as well. If you can leave the money there long enough, you can grow a sizeable nest egg against potential future health expenses or even the purchase of a long-term care policy. And, at age 65, you’re no longer penalized if you withdraw funds for nonapproved medical expenses.

And if you don’t use the money for medical expenses in retirement, but are past 65, you can use it for living expenses to supplement your 401(k). In that case, you’ll have to pay taxes on it, but there’s no penalty—it just works much like a tax-deferred situation from a regular retirement account.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Satter M. (2017 January 16). HSAs could play bigger role in retirement planning [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/01/16/hsas-could-play-bigger-role-in-retirement-planning?ref=hp-news


Compliance Recap: September 2016

Compliance Recap Provided by our Partner, United Benefit Advisors

September was not a very active month for administrative rulemaking in the employee benefits world. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Department of Labor (DOL), and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) extended the public comment period for the proposed Form 5500 annual return/report revision. The IRS issued rules defining terms relating to marital status and setting the 2016-17 special per diem rates. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued interim final regulations on maximum civil monetary penalties. Finally, the IRS finalized the special per diem rates for taxpayers to use in substantiating the amount of ordinary and necessary business expenses incurred while traveling away from home.

UBA Updates

UBA released five new advisors in the past month:

UBA updated existing guidance:

Proposed 2018 Benefit Payment and Parameters Rule

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released a proposed rule for the 2018 Benefit Payment and Parameters and a fact sheet about the proposed rule. Among other items, the proposed rule provides updates and annual provisions relating to:

  1. Risk adjustments
  2. Cost-sharing parameters and cost-sharing reductions
  3. The Small Business Health Options Program
  4. Eligibility and appeals
  5. The Medical Loss Ratio program

The Benefit Payment and Parameters rule is typically finalized in the first quarter of the year following the release of the proposed version. Comments on the proposed rule are due by October 6, 2016.

Read the UBA Advisor on the proposed regulations.

Proposed Form 5500 Rules Comment Period Extended

In July 2016, the Department of Labor (DOL), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) published a Notice of Proposed Revision of Annual Information Return/Reports to revise Form 5500 annual return/reports. At that time, the deadline for submitting public comment was set as October 4, 2016.

On September 20, 2016, the DOL issued a news release to announce that the DOL, IRS, and PBGS would extend the public comment period deadline to December 5, 2016. The agencies will publish notice of the extension in an upcoming Federal Register edition.

Final Rule on Definition of Terms Relating to Marital Status

On September 2, 2016, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued final regulations that define terms used in the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) describing the marital status of taxpayers for federal tax purposes.

In general, for federal tax purposes, the terms “spouse,” “husband,” and “wife” mean an individual lawfully married to another individual. The term “husband and wife” means two individuals lawfully married to each other. A marriage of two individuals is recognized for federal tax purposes if the marriage is recognized by the state, possession, or territory of the United States in which the marriage is entered into, regardless of domicile.

Two individuals who enter into a relationship denominated as marriage under the laws of a foreign jurisdiction are recognized as married for federal tax purposes if the relationship would be recognized as marriage under the laws of at least one state, possession, or territory of the United States, regardless of domicile.

The terms “spouse,” “husband,” and “wife” do not include individuals who have entered into a registered domestic partnership, civil union, or other similar formal relationship not denominated as a marriage under the law of the state, possession, or territory of the United States where such relationship was entered into, regardless of domicile.

The regulations were effective on September 2, 2016.

Interim Final Regulation on Maximum Civil Monetary Penalties

On September 2, 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued interim final regulations that adjust for inflation the maximum civil monetary penalties (CMP) that fall under HHS’s jurisdiction. The regulations reflect changes required by the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015 (the Act).

Adjustments under the Act were effective on August 1, 2016, and HHS’s CMP adjustment regulations were effective on September 6, 2016. HHS issued its regulations for immediate implementation, without the notice and comment procedures that normally accompany new regulations.

Under prior rules, CMP adjustments required significant rounding of figures and penalty increases were capped at ten percent. The Act removed the rounding rules (that is, penalties are now simply rounded to the nearest dollar).

Under the regulations, the adjusted penalty amounts apply only to CMPs assessed after August 1, 2016, whose associated violations occurred after November 2, 2015 (the Act’s enactment date).

As a result, violations occurring on or before November 2, 2015, and assessments made prior to August 1, 2016, whose associated violations occurred after November 2, 2015, continue to be subject to either:

  • the CMP amounts under existing regulations.
  • the amount under the statute, if a penalty had not yet been adjusted by regulations.

The regulations and introductory material include initial catch-up adjustments for CMPs, and the Act requires HHS to publish annual adjustments by January 15 of every year.

Increased CMPs Involving HIPAA Violations

The maximum adjusted penalty for each violation of HIPAA’s administrative simplification provisions prior to February 18, 2009, is $150 (increased from $100). (February 18, 2009, was the effective date of certain increased penalties for HIPAA violations under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH)).

In addition, the maximum adjusted penalties for each violation of HIPAA’s administrative simplification provisions on or after February 18, 2009, are:

  • If it is established that a covered entity (CE) or business associate (BA) did not know (and by exercising reasonable diligence would not have known) that the CE or BA violated the provision:
    • $110 (increased from $100)
    • $55,010 (increased from $50,000)
  • If it is established that the violation was due to reasonable cause and not willful neglect:
    • $1,100 (increased from $1,000)
    • $55,010 (increased from $50,000)
  • If it is established that the violation was due to willful neglect and corrected during the 30-day period beginning on the first date the CE or BA knew (or by exercising reasonable diligence would have known) that the violation occurred:
    • $11,002 (increased from $10,000)
    • $55,010 (increased from $50,000)
  • If it is established that the violation was due to willful neglect and was not corrected during the 30-day period beginning on the first date the CE or BA knew (or by exercising reasonable diligence would have known) that the violation occurred:
    • $55,010 (increased from $50,000)
    • $1,650,300 (increased from $1,500,000)

Increased Penalties for Non-HIPAA Violations

The maximum adjusted penalty for failing to provide summaries of benefits and coverage under the ACA is $1,087 (increased from $1,000). The maximum annual penalty for violations of the ACA’s medical loss ratio reporting and rebating rules is $109 (increased from $100).

The maximum adjusted penalty for an employer (or other entity) that offers a financial or other incentive for an individual who is entitled to benefits not to enroll under a group health plan or large group health plan that would be a primary plan is $8,908 (increased from $5,000).

The maximum adjusted penalty for any entity serving as an insurer, third party administrator (TPA), or fiduciary for a group health plan that fails to provide information to HHS identifying situations where the group health plan is (or was) a primary plan to Medicare is $1,138 (increased from $1,000).

Question of the Month

Q. How are health savings account (HSA) contributions calculated?

A. HSA contributions are calculated by month. In 2016, if an individual who moves from family coverage to single coverage, the individual’s maximum contribution amount is calculated as

(X/12 x $6,750) + (Y/12 x $3,350) = $____. The dollar figures used in the formula will change annually based on the IRS contribution limits.

X represents the number of months the individual was eligible under family coverage; Y represents the months the individual was eligible for single coverage.


Impact of Telemedicine on HSA Eligibility

One of the hottest benefit trends in 2016 is the adoption of free or low cost “telemedicine” programs to provide employees easy and affordable access to medical care. However, employers adopting these programs alongside high deductible health plans (HDHPs) need to be sure that they do not inadvertently disqualify the covered employees from eligibility for a health savings account (HSA).

The term “telemedicine” generally refers to healthrelated services delivered over the telephone or internet to employees and covers services ranging from non-specific wellness information about health conditions to primary care diagnosis and advice with prescription drug services. The employee’s cost for such services also varies and may consist of a charge on a “per-use” basis, or a monthly or annual fee for access. In many cases, employers are subsidizing the cost of the services or offering the services free of charge to encourage usage, which could create issues for employees with HSA coverage.

An HSA allows participants to defer compensation on a pre-tax basis for the purpose of paying eligible medical expenses if the participant is covered under an HDHP. In addition, the HSA participant must not be covered under any “disqualifying coverage.” Disqualifying coverage includes any health coverage that provides a benefit before the HDHP deductible is met and is often referred to as “first dollar coverage.” The IRS rules allow an exception from the first dollar coverage prohibition for certain types of coverage, including “permitted insurance” (for example, workers’ compensation, specified disease or illness insurance, per diem hospital benefits), “excepted benefits” (such as stand-alone dental or vision benefits), preventative care services, certain employee assistance programs (EAPs), and discount card programs allowing employees to receive discounted health services at managed care rates if the employee must pay for the balance until the HDHP deductible is met. Telemedicine programs that fall under one of the above categories will not prevent an individual from contributing to an HSA.

However, many telemedicine programs go beyond providing preventative care or EAP benefits and do not fall within the permitted insurance or excepted benefits categories. Thus, a telemedicine benefit could count as disqualifying coverage, for example, if the employer pays a portion of the cost of a telemedicine consultation, or the participant pays less than fair market value for access to the consultation, before meeting the HDHP deductible. Any telemedicine program providing primary care or prescription drug services in particular would likely trigger IRS scrutiny unless the employer can establish that the cost passed on to participants is the fair market value for the services. Although the IRS has not yet weighed in on the impact of telemedicine programs on HSA benefits, employers that sponsor HDHPs and telemedicine programs should consider the risks of potential HSA disqualification with legal counsel to ensure employees are not subjected to unintended income and excise taxes for participating in disqualifying coverage.

Content included in the Summer 2016 Benefits and Employment Briefing provided by our partner, United Benefit Advisors