3 Aspects of the GOP Healthcare Plan that Demand Employers’ Attention

The House of Representatives last week passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA) bill to begin the process of repealing the ACA. Find out what this new legislation means for employers in the great article from Employee Benefits Adviser by Daniel N. Kuperstein.

The extremely emotional journey to repeal (more appropriately, to “change”) the Affordable Care Act reached a significant milestone this week: The Republican-led House of Representatives passed an updated version of the American Health Care Act. While more than 75% of the provisions of the ACA remain intact, the AHCA gutted or delayed several of the ACA’s taxes on employers, insurers and individuals.

So what does this mean for employers?

First off, it’s important to remember that this new bill is not law just yet. The House version of the bill now heads to the Senate, where there’s no guarantee that it will pass in its current form; the margin for victory is much slimmer there. Only three “no” votes by Senate Republicans could defeat the bill, and both moderate and conservative Republican lawmakers in the Senate have expressed concerns about the bill. In other words, employers don’t have to do anything just yet, but it’s still beneficial to understand the major changes that could be coming down the pike.

As employers know from working over the last seven years to implement provisions of the ACA, there will be a million tiny details to work through if the AHCA becomes law.

But for now, we see three major aspects that demand employers’ attention.

There will be more emphasis on health savings accounts
Under the AHCA, health savings accounts will likely become far more popular — and more useful. The HSA contribution limits for employers and individuals are essentially doubled. Additionally, HSAs will be able to reimburse over-the-counter medications and allow spouses to make catch-up contributions to the same HSA. Of course, with this added flexibility comes increased responsibility — there will be a greater need for employees to understand their insurance.

There will be more flexibility in choosing a benchmark plan
For larger employers not in the small group market, the AHCA creates an opportunity to choose a benchmark plan that offers a significantly lower level of benefits to employees.

Currently, the ACA provides that employer-sponsored self-insured health plans, fully-insured large group health plans, and grandfathered health plans are not required to offer EHBs. However, these plans are prohibited from imposing annual and lifetime dollar limits on any EHBs they do offer. For purposes of determining which benefits are EHBs subject to the annual and lifetime dollar limits, the ACA currently permits employers sponsoring these types of plans to define their EHBs using any state benchmark plan. In other words, employers are not bound by the essential health benefits mandated by their state and can pick from another state’s list of required benefits.

Under the AHCA, we may see a big change to how the rules on annual and lifetime limits work. Notably, nothing in the AHCA would prohibit employers from choosing a state benchmark plan from a state that had obtained an AHCA waiver, which would allow the state to put annual and lifetime limits on its EHBs. This means that, if one state decides to waive these EHB requirements, many employers could decide to use that lower-standard plan as their benchmark plan. Of course, while choosing such a benchmark plan may benefit an organization by lowering its costs, such a move may have a negative impact on its ability to recruit and retain the best talent.

There will be a greater need to help employees make smart benefits decisions
The most important aspect of this for employers is to understand the trend in health insurance, which is undeniably moving in the direction of consumerism.

The driving philosophy behind this new Republican plan is to place more responsibility on individuals. However, this doesn’t mean employers can throw a party and simply wish their workers “good luck” — employers need to think at a macro level about what’s good for business. In a tightening labor market in which so many talented people consider themselves free agents, smart employers will focus on helping employees to make smart decisions about their health insurance.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Kuperstein D. (2017 May 5). 3 aspects of the GOP healthcare plan that demand employers attention [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/3-aspects-of-the-gop-healthcare-plan-that-demand-employers-attention


Understanding the Evolution of Health Insurance in a Post-ACA World

With the fall of the AHCA, are you wondering where you are left standing with healthcare? Check out this great article from Benefits Pro on what the fall of the AHCA means for employers and how to proceed with healthcare from here by Eric Helman.

While much has been written about specific aspects of the ACA and how repeal, replace and repair will affect certain populations, the impact on employer-sponsored benefits is more convoluted.

In the world of employee benefits, to properly understand the post ACA world, we must reflect on the confluence of how five separate constituents react to the new health insurance landscape.

The issues and priorities of these five groups: government, carriers, employers, employees, and brokers/consultants, and how they relate to each other will dictate the evolution of health insurance in the post-ACA world.

These insights will illuminate what to expect in a post-ACA climate as the health insurance landscape continues to evolve under President Trump.

Government compliance issues ease

While we all may be a bit weary from the focus on Washington, the fact remains the federal government continues to be the single biggest catalyst for changes in the health insurance and benefits landscape.

For benefits professionals, it is important to recognize that for all the politicization around ACA, there is very little focus on the employer-provided benefits space, especially outside of the realm of small employers. The priority for government involvement in repeal-replace-repair is the individual market and Medicaid expansion.

Having said this, if the Republicans choose to use reconciliation to repeal the ACA with a simple majority, many aspects of the employer-provided system will be affected. Unfortunately, this will perpetuate the preoccupation with compliance in the employer space, continuing the trend of non-value add expenditure of resources that has plagued the industry for the last five years.

Carrier mandates relax

Perhaps surprisingly, the second area of significant change in the post-ACA era will be in the domain of the carriers. Against the backdrop of the Department of Justice opinions on the two proposed mega-mergers, we expect the greatest impact of repeal-replace-repair will manifest itself in the proliferation of new products which were “non-compliant” under the ACA.

Whether correct or not, one of the indictments of the ACA is increased mandates do more to destroy markets in terms of access and affordability than they do to advance these objectives.

Look for the relaxation of these mandates and the commensurate acceleration of new product development which will inevitably follow. Combined with the return of premium reimbursement plans in the small market, we expect the further commoditization of major medical insurance as low risk consumers choose less coverage for less premium.

Employers reallocate benefits compensation

Second only to the carriers, the employers have been the biggest victims of the ACA era. While many have applauded the decline in the rate of health care inflation, the reality is that benefits costs continue to grow more than inflation, placing an ever-increasing burden on total compensation planning.

Add to this the increased cost of compliance in an environment where employers are trying to reduce administrative costs in the face of a slow growth economy and you can understand the “ACA fatigue” many employers report.

Repeal-replace-repair, while it will bring uncertainty in the near term, is likely to lower the burden on employers and allow more strategic thinking about how they allocate compensation to benefits.

The increasing age diversity of their employees will force them to consider altering this allocation in favor of financial wellness (retirement and student debt) perhaps at the expense of traditional health benefits. The war for new talent precipitated by near full employment in skilled professions will only exacerbate this tension.

Employees wise up on benefit choices

For employees, the impact of the politicization of health care will continue to cloud their perception of their role in choosing and consuming the benefit programs offered by their employers.

While much has been written about the promise of “consumerism” to change the hyper-inflationary nature of fee-for-service health care, it is apparent that the deadly combination of employee illiteracy and entitlement about employer-provided health insurance is a greater impediment to real reform in the way health care is consumed in this country.

With the potential deregulation on mandated benefits and the increasing availability of retail health care alternatives, it will be incumbent on all the constituents to accelerate the employees’ education and appreciation for employee benefit choices customized to their informed perception of need and risk mitigation.

Brokers/consultants rise to the challenges

And now, the elephant in the room, the impact on brokers and consultants. One of my early mentors said, “There is profit in confusion.” For the skilled practitioners, I think they would agree that the net effect of the ACA was increased opportunity. It is important to note however, that this opportunity required focus on new disciplines.

No longer were the skills of customer relationship management, procurement management and vendor management sufficient to satisfy the needs of their clients. The best players were forced to develop expertise in compliance, regulatory impact, benefits technology and internal human resources processes that their predecessors could ignore. This, the low cost of money and the aging workforce of benefit producers has contributed to the continued wave of firm consolidation which changes the nature of competition.

Additionally, the widely publicized fall of market disruptors will have a chilling effect on innovation for the near term. In the post-ACA era, benefits professionals will be challenged to balance revenue, client retention and cost-of-service pressures in an environment where the future is uncertain.

The post-ACA era promises to be as exciting as the last five years. To paraphrase Richard Epstein on a separate topic, the real dilemma is that the people working on the problem lack the technical expertise and the political agnostic orientation necessary for real change.

In the meantime, successful participants in this marketplace will be forced to be both diplomats and opportunists, acutely aware of the issues and priorities facing all of the important constituents and balancing these to the most optimum outcome. I, personally, am comforted that we have some of the most creative people I know working on this challenge.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Helman E. (2017 April 7). Understanding the evolution of health insurance in a post-ACA world [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/04/07/understanding-the-evolution-of-health-insurance-in?t=core-group&page_all=1


Half of Mature Workers Delaying or Giving Up on Retirement

Did you know that now more than ever Americans are giving up on their dreams of retirement? Find out about the somber facts facing the older generation of workers in the great article from Benefits Pro by Marlene Y. Satter.

It’s a grim picture for older workers: half either plan to postpone retirement till at least age 70, or else to forego retirement altogether.

That’s the depressing conclusion of a recent CareerBuilder survey, which finds that 30 percent of U.S. workers aged 60 or older don’t plan to retire until at least age 70—and possibly not then, either.

Another 20 percent don’t believe they will ever be able to retire.

Why? Well, money—or, rather, the lack of it—is the main reason for all these delays and postponements.

But that doesn’t mean that workers actually have a set financial goal in mind; they just have this sinking feeling that there’s not enough set aside to support them.

Thirty-four percent of survey respondents aged 60 and older say they aren’t sure how much they’ll need to save in order to retire.

And a stunning 24 percent think they’ll be able to get through retirement (and the potential for high medical expenses) on less than $500,000.

Others are estimating higher—some a lot higher—but that probably makes the goal of retirement seem even farther out of reach, with 25 percent believing that the magic number lies somewhere between $500,000–$1,000,000, 13 percent shooting for a figure between $1–2 million, 3 percent looking at $2 million to less than $3 million and (the) 1 percent aiming at $3 million or more.

And if that’s not bad enough, 26 percent of workers 55 and older say they don’t even participate in a 401(k), IRA or other retirement plan.

With 74 percent of respondents 55 and older saying they aren’t making their desired salary, that could play a pretty big part in lack of participation—but that doesn’t mean they’re standing still. Eight percent took on a second job in 2016, and 12 percent plan to change jobs this year.

Predictably, the situation is worse for women. While 54.8 percent of male respondents aged 60+ say they’re postponing retirement, 58.7 percent of women say so.

Asked at which age they think they can retire, the largest groups of both men and women say 65–69, but while 44.9 percent of men say so, just 39.6 percent of women say so.

In addition, 24.4 percent of women peg the 70–74 age range, compared with 21.1 percent of men, and 23.2 percent of women agree with the gloomy statement, “I don’t think I’ll be able to retire”—compared with 18 percent of men.

And no wonder, since while 21.7 percent of men say they’re “not sure” how much they’ll need to retire, 49.3 percent of women are in that category.

Women also don’t participate in retirement plans at the rate that men do, either; 28.3 percent of male respondents say they don’t participate in a 401(k), IRA or other retirement plan, but 35.4 percent of female respondents say they aren’t participating.

For workers in the Midwest, a shocking percentage say they’re delaying retirement: 61.6 percent overall, both men and women, of 60+ workers saying they’re doing so.

Those in the fields of transportation, retail, sales, leisure and hospitality make up the largest percentages of those putting off retirement, at 70.4 percent, 62.5 percent, 62.8 percent and 61.3 percent, respectively. And 46.7 percent overall agree with the statement, “I don’t think I’ll be able to retire.”

Incidentally, 53.2 percent of those in financial services—the largest professional industry group to say so—are not postponing retirement.

They’re followed closely by those in health care, at 50.9 percent—the only other field in which more than half of its workers are planning on retiring on schedule.

And when it comes to participating in retirement plans, some industries see some really outsized participation rates that other industries could only dream of. Among those who work in financial services, for instance, 96.5 percent of respondents say they participate in a 401(k), IRA or comparable retirement plan.

That’s followed by information technology (88.2 percent), energy (87.5 percent), large health care institutions (85.8 percent—smaller health care institutions participate at a rate of 51 percent, while overall in the industry the rate comes to 75.5 percent), government employees (83.6 percent) and manufacturing (80.2 percent).

After that it drops off pretty sharply, and the industry with the lowest participation rate is the leisure and hospitality industry, at just 43.4 percent.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Satter M. (2017 March 31). Half of mature workers delaying or giving up on retirement [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/03/31/half-of-mature-workers-delaying-or-giving-up-on-re?ref=mostpopular&page_all=1


5 Simple Steps Clients Can Take to Boost Workers' Financial Wellness

Are you trying to help your employees increase their financial well-being? Check out these 5 great tips from Employee Benefits Adviser on how to help increase your employees' investment into their financial wellness by Joe Desilva.

Now more than ever, employers offer a wide array of benefits to build engagement and culture within their walls. Healthy snack options adorning the kitchen? Check. Fitness stipends? Check. Competitive work-from-home policies? Check. These are all nice-to-have extras, but employees are increasingly concerned about a more fundamental concern: retirement planning. And it’s here where employers are not providing enough enticing options as they are with the other, flashier perks.

One of the biggest issues employees face as they plan for retirement is economic uncertainty. Only 21% of workers are very confident that they will have enough money for a comfortable retirement, according to the 2016 Employee Benefit Research Institute Retirement Confidence Survey. This should matter to employers because financial uncertainty can have a negative effect on work performance, according to a study by Lockton Retirement Services. The study found that one in five workers reported feeling extremely stressed, mostly because of their job or finances, and those reporting high stress were twice as likely to report poor health overall, leading to more sick days and decreased productivity.

Boosting financial wellness programs not only can help employees’ finances in the long term, it can possibly help employees manage stress and increase productivity in the short term. Employers seem to understand this. In fact, 92% of employer-respondents in a study commissioned by ADP titled Winning with Wellness confirmed interest in providing their workforce with information about retirement planning basics, and 84% said the same of retirement income planning.

Yet, even though many employers appreciate the value of these programs, 32% are not considering implementation. The appetite exists for retirement planning, but the prospects of starting a program appear to be daunting. The truth is, it can be easier than you think.

Here are five simple steps an employer can take to start helping employees find tools and information to help them better manage their finances and grow more confident in their financial futures.

  1. Teach employees critical planning skills. Experts suggest retirees will need 75%-90% of their working income to live comfortably in retirement. To help employees determine the optimal amount to meet their needs, consider providing them with tools that look at factors such as current annual pre-tax income, estimated Social Security benefit amount, current age and the age they would like to retire, and any retirement savings and project possible retirement savings outcomes. Helping them estimate savings needs and retirement investing now can pay off in the future.
  2. Offer access to automatic enrollment and auto-escalation features. No matter how well employees do with other investments, the 401(k)’s advantages of tax-deferred growth and a company match is likely unbeatable. By automatically enrolling employees in retirement plans with savings increases, you may be able to position your employees for a more confident financial future.
  3. Provide resources so employees can seek investment advice from a professional. Employees may want to seek advice on their investments so they will not bear the stress of retirement on their own. There are a lot of options available to employees, but they may not be familiar enough with those options to determine whether or not they’d benefit. Providing access to professional investment advice with respect to retirement accounts may help employees feel confident in their retirement decisions.
  4. Deliver tools and personalized materials that integrate with real data. Working with a service provider that integrates payroll and recordkeeping data can give a retirement plan the ability to deliver targeted personalized information that employees can use for planning purposes. By delivering relevant information, employees can get engaged and have a better sense of the progress of their retirement planning.
  5. Make self-learning tools available for honing financial skills anytime, anywhere. A financial wellness program can help employees face their financial decisions with confidence. Most programs offer a library of tools and resources that gives employees access to information about planning, saving, and providing for their home, family and retirement. With financial education, employees may make better financial choices and set realistic goals.

At a time when employee retention is crucial, it’s important to create a support system for employees as they plan their financial futures. With so many workers concerned about retirement security, employers have a clear opportunity to step in and help. Whether it’s enabling employees to save more for retirement or learn about budgeting, financial planning can potentially serve as another popular perk among that list of nice-to-haves.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Desilva J. (2017 March 16). 5 simple steps clients can take to boost workers' financial wellness[Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/5-simple-steps-clients-can-take-to-boost-workers-financial-wellness


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 Market Stabilization Final Rule

Make sure you are staying up-to-date with the most recent rulings and changes regarding healthcare thanks to our partner United Benefit Advisors (UBA).

On April 18, 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published its final rule regarding Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) market stabilization.

The rule amends standards relating to special enrollment periods, guaranteed availability, and the timing of the annual open enrollment period in the individual market for the 2018 plan year, standards related to network adequacy and essential community providers for qualified health plans, and the rules around actuarial value requirements.

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.

The regulations are effective on June 17, 2017.

Guaranteed Availability of Coverage

The guaranteed availability provisions require health insurance issuers offering non-grandfathered coverage in the individual or group market to offer coverage to and accept every individual and employer that applies for such coverage unless an exception applies. Individuals and employers must usually pay the first month’s premium to activate coverage.

CMS previously interpreted the guaranteed availability provisions so that a consumer would be allowed to purchase coverage under a different product without having to pay past due premiums. Further, if an individual tried to renew coverage in the same product with the same issuer, then the issuer could apply the enrollee’s upcoming premium payments to prior non-payments.

Under the final rule and as permitted by state law, an issuer may apply the initial premium payment to any past-due premium amounts owed to that issuer. If the issuer is part of a controlled group, the issuer may apply the initial premium payment to any past-due premium amounts owed to any other issuer that is a member of that controlled group, for coverage in the 12-month period preceding the effective date of the new coverage.

Practically speaking, when an individual or employer makes payment in the amount required to trigger coverage and the issuer lawfully credits all or part of that amount to past-due premiums, the issuer will determine that the consumer made insufficient initial payment for new coverage.

This policy applies both inside and outside of the Exchanges in the individual, small group, and large group markets, and during applicable open enrollment or special enrollment periods.

This policy does not permit a different issuer (other than one in the same controlled group as the issuer to which past-due premiums are owed) to condition new coverage on payment of past-due premiums or permit any issuer to condition new coverage on payment of past-due premiums by any individual other than the person contractually responsible for the payment of premiums.

Issuers adopting this premium payment policy, as well as any issuers that do not adopt the policy but are within an adopting issuer’s controlled group, must clearly describe the consequences of non-payment on future enrollment in all paper and electronic forms of their enrollment application materials and any notice that is provided regarding premium non-payment.

Annual Open Enrollment Periods

Currently, annual Exchange open enrollment for plan year 2018 begins on November 1, 2017, and ends on January 31, 2018. Under the final rule, the open enrollment period will shorten; it will begin on November 1, 2017, and end on December 15, 2017. This open enrollment period will be consistent with the month-and-a-half open enrollment period beginning with and after the open enrollment for the 2019 benefit year.

Special Enrollment Periods

Starting in June 2017, all new consumers who seek to enroll in Exchange coverage through applicable special enrollment periods will be subject to pre-enrollment eligibility verification. This will include all states served by HealthCare.gov. This pre-enrollment verification will apply to the individual market only, not to special enrollment periods under the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP).

New dependents can enroll in a new qualified health plan (QHP) at any metal level if they enroll in a separate QHP from other existing enrollees; however, if the new dependent is enrolling in the same QHP as those who are already QHP enrollees, then the dependent and existing QHP enrollees are restricted from changing plans or metal levels. This does not apply to the small group market or SHOP.

Consumers who were terminated from coverage due to premium nonpayment will not be allowed to enroll in coverage mid-year through a special enrollment period due to loss of minimum essential coverage.

For consumers who are newly enrolling in QHP coverage through the Exchange through the special enrollment period for marriage, at least one spouse must have had minimum essential coverage for one or more days during the 60 days preceding the marriage date, or must have lived in a foreign country or a U.S. territory for one or more days during the 60 days preceding the marriage date. This applies to the individual market only. This does not apply to the small group market or SHOP.

For consumers who are newly enrolling in QHP coverage through the Exchange through the special enrollment period for a permanent move, the consumer will need to provide documentation of the move and evidence of prior coverage for one or more days in the 60 days preceding the move, unless the consumer is moving to the U.S. from a foreign country or a U.S. territory. This applies to the individual market. The requirement to show prior coverage for the permanent move special enrollment period is applicable to the SHOP. Further, CMS intends to release guidance on documentation that will be acceptable for this special enrollment period.

For the remainder of 2017 and for future plan years, CMS will significantly limit the use of the exceptional circumstances special enrollment period by using a more rigorous test that will require consumers to provide supporting documentation. CMS intends to provide guidance on situations that will meet the more rigorous test and on documentation that consumers will be required to provide. This applies to the individual market only.

A consumer may request and the Exchange must provide for a coverage effective date that is no more than one month later than the consumer’s effective date would ordinarily have been, if the special enrollment period verification process delays the enrollment so that the consumer would be required to pay two or more months of retroactive premium to effectuate coverage or avoid cancellation. This applies to the individual market and SHOP.

The final rule indicates that the following special enrollment periods are no longer available:

  • Consumers who enrolled with an advance premium tax credit (APTC) that is too large because of a redundant or duplicate policy
  • Consumers who were affected by a temporary error in the treatment of Social Security Income for tax dependents
  • Lawfully present non-citizens that were affected by a temporary error in the determination of their APTC eligibility
  • Lawfully present non-citizens with incomes below 100 percent of federal poverty level (FPL) who experienced certain processing delays
  • Consumers who were eligible for or enrolled in COBRA and were not sufficiently informed about their coverage options

Continuous Coverage

CMS solicited and received comments on policies that would promote continuous coverage; however, CMS did not take any action in this final rule regarding such policies.

Health Insurance Issuer Standards under the ACA, Including Standards Related to Exchanges

Under the ACA, issuers of non-grandfathered individual and small group health insurance plans, including QHPs, must ensure that the plans adhere to certain levels of coverage.

A plan’s coverage level, or actuarial value (AV), is determined based on its coverage of the essential health benefits (EHBs) for a standard population. The ACA requires a bronze plan to have an AV of 60 percent, a silver plan to have an AV of 70 percent, a gold plan to have an AV of 80 percent, and a platinum plan to have an AV of 90 percent. The HHS Secretary issues regulations on the calculation of AV and its application to coverage levels; the ACA authorizes the Secretary to develop guidelines to provide for de minimis variation in the actuarial valuations used in determining the level of coverage of a plan to account for differences in actuarial estimates.

The final rule amends the definition of de minimis to a variation of -4/+2 percentage points, rather than +/-2 percentage points for all non-grandfathered individual and small group market plans (other than bronze plans meeting certain conditions) that are required to comply with AV. For example, a silver plan could have an AV between 66 and 72 percent. For bronze plans that either cover and pay for at least one major service, other than preventive services, before the deductible or meet the requirements to be a high deductible health plan, the allowable variation in AV will be -4/+5 percentage points. This applies to plans beginning on or after January 1, 2018. CMS’ revised 2018 AV Calculator (scroll to Plan Management, Guidance) reflects the amended AV de minimis range.

Network Adequacy

CMS will rely on state reviews for network adequacy in states where a federally facilitated exchange (FFE) is operating as long as the state has a sufficient network adequacy review process. In states that do not have the authority and means to conduct sufficient network adequacy reviews, CMS will rely on an issuer’s accreditation (commercial, Medicaid, or Exchange) from an HHS-recognized accrediting entity. CMS will use the following three accrediting entities for 2018 plan year network adequacy reviews: the National Committee for Quality Assurance, URAC, and the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health (these accrediting entities were previously recognized by HHS for QHP accreditation).

Unaccredited issuers are required to submit an access plan as part of the QHP application; the access plan must demonstrate that an issuer has standards and procedures in place to maintain an adequate network consistent with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ (NAIC’s) Health Benefit Plan Network Access and Adequacy Model Act.

Essential Community Providers

Essential community providers (ECPs) include providers that serve predominantly low-income and medically underserved individuals; issuers must meet requirements for ECPs’ inclusion in QHP provider networks.

CMS will lower the minimum percentage of network participating practitioners; an issuer will satisfy the regulatory standard if the issuer contracts with at least 20 percent of available ECPs in each plan’s service area to participate in the plan’s provider network. Also, CMS will continue to allow an issuer’s ECP write-ins to count toward the satisfaction of the ECP standard, if the written-in provider has submitted an ECP petition to HHS no later than the issuer submission deadline for QHP application changes.

Conclusion

The final rule adopts almost all the proposed rule’s provisions. The primary changes from the proposed rule to the final rule are: clarifications to the scope of the guaranteed availability policy regarding unpaid premiums, changes to special enrollment period provisions, updates to the definitions and general standards for eligibility determinations, and clarification regarding states’ roles.

CMS acknowledges that these provisions’ net effect on enrollment, premiums and total premium tax credit payments is uncertain. However, CMS determined that these regulations are urgently needed to stabilize markets, incentivize issuers to enter or remain in the market, and ensure premium stability and consumer choice.

To download the full compliance alert click Here.


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/


What it Takes to Make Good Decisions in the New World of Work

With many companies taking employee education and training into their own hands employers must be properly prepared for the changing future. Check out this great article from SHRM about what employers must do to keep pace in the ever evolving workplace by Ross Smith and Madhukar Yarra

We live in a world where phenomena such as the internet, globalization, social media, and mobility are accelerating change faster than ever before. Today’s digital age fed by big data is manifested in new businesses disrupting existing business models, which are remnants of the industrial era. These new models, typified by the Ubers, Amazons, Teslas, Airbnb’s and Facebooks of the world, are fossilizing the older generation of companies.

It is difficult for the education system to keep pace with this kind of change. The education system is a behemoth whose design is evolving to address the need for agility and speed. They change after the fact and therefore almost always take refuge in ‘best practices’. The MBA as we know it, has also fallen prey to this.

The MBA has been designed to provide a pool of mid-level managers for large corporations and questions arise about the future. Armed with an MBA, new hires walk into a large corporation with a desire to prove their worth through a strong knowledge of historical best practices. They may miss the value of ‘first principles’ thinking, and more often than not, face challenges to make an impact. Over time, this can create a disconnected or disillusioned workforce.

The question then becomes - if emerging and disruptive business models no longer subscribe to historical best practices, and by extension, to business schools, as their source for leadership, where should they look? What is that institution or model that allows individuals to build decision making capabilities in today’s world?

The reliance on irrelevant frameworks, outdated textbooks, and a historical belief in “best practices” all run counter to how a leader needs to be thinking in today’s fast paced digital world.  There are no established best practices for marketing in a sharing economy or creating a brand in a digital world. The best practices might have been established last week. The world is moving fast, and leaders need to be more agile. Today, Millennials are leading teams, calling the shots in many corporations, which means that the energy created is one that leaves little time for rules and structures to effectuate and/or create impact. Making good decisions in today’s business world requires a new and different kind of thinking, and there are tactics that can help grow these new types of leaders.

Importance of questions: most leadership and business programs today evaluate and assess students based on answers, not the ability to ask good questions. Thoughtful and incisive questions lead to innovation and as business problems become more granular and interconnected, this skill will help leaders arrive at better decisions.

Experimentation over experts: Students are encouraged to seek “expert advice” rather than formulating their own hypotheses that can be tested as low cost experiments. While consulting with those who have walked the same path has its benefits, relying on the experiences of others may hinder growth, particularly when change is accelerating. The shift to globalization, digitization, social, and agile are changing rapidly, there is no “right answer”, so experimentation is a crucial skill.

Interdisciplinary perspective: Disciplines and industry sector models are glorified at a time when discipline barriers are being broken to create new ideas. A conscious intermingling of disciplines creates more fertile minds for innovative thoughts to occur.

In today’s management programs, outdated content and old-school delivery mechanisms are limiting  students and businesses alike. There is a dire need to help business and young talent alike embrace a new art of problem solving, essential for the realities of today.

Many companies are starting to take education and employee training into their own hands. The advent of online courses, MOOCs, and other innovative programs in employee education are supplementing traditional education.

HR professionals can learn from companies who have set up their own deep technical training programs. With the work they do to augment decision science skills, Mu Sigma University is a great example of a modern day tech company, building skills across technology, business, analytics, and design. The workforce is changing. Many traditional jobs are being replaced with automation, robots, cloud-based machine learning services, and artificial intelligence – while at the same time, the demand for high end engineering, analytics, business intelligence, data and decision science is booming. Many companies, such as Mu Sigma, are spinning up advanced technical training investments to ensure their employees are equipped for a rapidly evolving future.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Smith R. &  Yarra M. (2017 March 15). What it takes to make good decisions in the new world of work [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://blog.shrm.org/blog/what-it-takes-to-make-good-decisions-in-the-new-world-of-work


The Changing Landscape of Employee Benefits

Great article from our partner, United Benefit Advisors (UBA) about the changes coming to employee benefits by Pat McClelland

There is no denying our industry is changing rapidly, and it’s not about to slow down. Combined with disruptive advances in technology and evolving consumer expectations, we’re seeing consumer-driven health care emerge. Take, for example, the fact that employees now spend more than nine hours a day on digital devices.

There’s no doubt that all this screen time takes a toll.

  • Device screens expose users to blue light. It’s the light of the day and helps us wake up and regulate our sleep/wake cycle.
  • Research suggests blue light may lead to eye strain and fatigue. Digital eye strain is the physical eye discomfort felt by many individuals after two or more hours in front of a digital screen.
  • In fact, digital eye strain has surpassed carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis as the leading computer-related workplace injury in America1.

Employees are demanding visibility into health care costs and transparency in the options available so they can take control of their own health. Consumers are more knowledgeable and sensitive to cost, and as a result becoming very selective about their care.

Lack of preventive care

Preventive screenings are a crucial piece of overall health and wellness. In fact, the largest investment companies make to detect illnesses and manage medical costs is in their health plan. But if employees don’t take advantage of preventive care, this investment will not pay off. Only one out of 10 employees get the preventive screenings you’d expect during an annual medical visit2.

It's a big lost opportunity for organizations that are looking for a low-cost, high-engagement option to drive employee wellness.

How a vision plan can help

The good news is that the right vision plan can help your employees build a bigger safety net to catch chronic conditions early. It all starts with education on the importance of an eye exam.

Eye exams are preventive screenings that most people seek out as a noninvasive, inexpensive way to check in on their health; it’s a win-win for employers and employees.

  • A comprehensive eye exam can reveal health conditions even if the person being examined doesn’t have symptoms.
  • The eyes are the only unobtrusive place in a person’s body with a clear view of their blood vessels.
  • And, an eye exam provides an opportunity to learn about the many options available to take control of their health and how to protect their vision.

By screening for conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol during eye exams, optometrists are often the ones to detect early signs of these conditions and put the patient on a quicker path to managing the condition. In a study conducted in partnership with Human Capital Management Services (HCMS), VSP doctors were the first to detect signs of3:

  • Diabetes - 34 percent of the time
  • Hypertension - 39 percent of the time
  • High cholesterol - 62 percent of the time

See the original article Here.

Source:

McClelland P. (2017 March 02). The changing Landscape of Employee Benefits [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/the-changing-landscape-of-employee-benefits


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