Supreme Court Decision Puts Health Plans Under Fire To Complete ACA-Required Summary of Benefits & Communications & Other Health Plan Updates


SBCs Required By 1st Day Of 1st Enrollment Period Beginning After September 22, 2012

Health Plan-U Coping With Health Care Reform Workshop Series Provide Timely Updates Beginning July 24

The June 28, 2012 Supreme Court National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius ruling rejecting constitutional challenges to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Affordable Care Act). means most health plans, their employer and other sponsors, fiduciaries and administrators, and insurers must rush to update their health plan documents, summary plan descriptions and other communications, administrative procedures and contracts, reporting and other arrangements to meet the “Summary of Benefits & Coverage” (SBC) and other requirements of Affordable Care Act and other federal rules that have, or by year-end will, apply to their group health plans.

Final SBC Regulations[*] implementing the Affordable Care Act’s summary of benefits and coverage requirements jointly published February 14, 2012 by the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Treasury (the Departments) will require most health plans and health insurers begin providing the SBC and Uniform Glossary meeting Department standards to covered persons and coverage applicants beginning on the opening day of the first enrollment period beginning after September 22, 2012.

Parties responsible for completing these arrangements should expect to need significant lead time properly to tailor a SBC and Glossary to their health plan, and complete other necessary arrangements to timely comply with the Final SBC Regulations. Most health plans will need significant time to complete the analysis needed to prepare a SBC appropriately tailored to their health plan.  In addition, most group health plans and insurers, their sponsors, administrators and fiduciaries also generally want to identify and make changes to their health plan design, documents, summary plan descriptions and other materials and practices in response to the new requirements.

Completing the preparations to meet the deadline for providing SBCs won’t be easy for most health plans and insurers planning to conduct annual or other enrollment periods this Fall.  Most employer and other health plan sponsors, fiduciaries, insurers and administrators can expect to experience significant challenges completing the arrangements necessary to comply with the highly technical and extremely rigid requirements of the SBC rules. Most health plan sponsors, fiduciaries and administrators also will want to consider tightening plan document, summary plan description, claims and appeals notices and other plan documentation and associated administrative procedures to coördinate with the SBC language and other Affordable Care Act requirements.

Regulations implementing the SBC requirements published in February, 2012 and later regulatory guidance dictate detailed requirements about the required content of the SBC, as well as dictate that health plans and insurers covered by the SBC rules provide a Uniform Glossary of terms, many of which are likely to differ from definitions of the same or similar terms in plan documents, summary plan descriptions or other plan related documents. To help further clarify these requirements, the Departments on March 19, 2012 published a new FAQ[†] that clarifies certain information about the SBC Regulation and its deadline and other requirements. When plans cover a culturally diverse workforce, health plans also will need to make the necessary arrangements to prepare their plans where necessary to comply with the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that health plans and insurers communicate in culturally and linguistic way.

Taking time to make changes needed to find and resolve potential conflicts and other ambiguities between required terms of the SBC and Glossary and existing health plan documentation, communications and procedures is particularly important in light of the United States Supreme Court’s May 16, 2011 ruling in Cigna Corp. v. Amara.  In Amara, the Supreme Court ruled that federal courts may use equitable remedies provided for under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act to give a remedy to individuals hurt because summary plan descriptions or other communication or disclosure documents provided by the health plan contain terms that conflict with the official health plan documents under certain conditions.  Health plans, their fiduciaries, sponsoring employers and unions, insurers, administrative service providers and their management also generally will want to carefully craft the SBC and other related plan materials and processes to manage these risks and support the enforceability of the intended plan design.

Workshops Helps Health Plans, Fiduciaries, Insurers & Administrators Prepare

Health plans, their fiduciaries, employer and other sponsors, insurers and administrator can catch up on steps to take to prepare their health plans to comply with the new SBC and other requirements by participating in the 2012 Health Plan-U Coping With Health Care Reform Workshops that Solutions Law Press, Inc. will host beginning on July 24, 2012.

The Workshop Series now includes the following four Workshops to be conducted between July 24, 2012 and August 28, 2012:

2012 Health Plan Update*

July 24, 2012

11:30 A.M.-1:30 P.M. Central

Claims & Appeals Bootcamp*

July 31, 2012

11:30 A.M.-1:00 P.M. Central

HIPAA Bootcamp*

August 14, 2012

11:30 A.M.-1:30 P.M. Central

Health Plan Communications

Bootcamp:

SBCs, SPDs & Beyond*

August 28, 2012

11:30 A.M.-1:00 P.M.

More programs are planned for later in the Fall.  To register for these programs or get more details, see here.

For Help or More Information

If you need help preparing to comply with the SBC requirements or other help with reviewing and updating, administering or defending your group health or other employee benefit, human resources, insurance, health care matters or related documents or practices, please contact the author of this update, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.

A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Council, immediate past Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current Co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Vice-Chair of the ABA TIPS Employee Benefits Committee, a council member of the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, and past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Ms. Stamer is recognized, internationally, nationally and locally for her more than 24 years of work, advocacy, education and publications on leading health and managed care, employee benefit, human resources and related workforce, insurance and financial services, and health care matters.

A board certified labor and employment attorney widely known for her extensive and creative knowledge and experienced with these and other employment, employee benefit and compensation matters, Ms. Stamer continuously advises and assists employers, employee benefit plans, their sponsoring employers, fiduciaries, insurers, administrators, service providers, insurers and others to monitor and respond to evolving legal and operational requirements and to design, administer, document and defend medical and other welfare benefit, qualified and non-qualified deferred compensation and retirement, severance and other employee benefit, compensation, and human resources, management and other programs and practices tailored to the client’s human resources, employee benefits or other management goals.  A primary drafter of the Bolivian Social Security pension privatization law, Ms. Stamer also works extensively with management, service provider and other clients to watch legislative and regulatory developments and to deal with Congressional and state legislators, regulators, and enforcement officials about regulatory, investigatory or enforcement concerns.

Recognized in Who’s Who In American Professionals and both an American Bar Association (ABA) and a State Bar of Texas Fellow, Ms. Stamer serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of Employee Benefits News, the editor and publisher of Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update and other Solutions Law Press Publications, and active in a multitude of other employee benefits, human resources and other professional and civic organizations.   She also is a widely published author and highly regarded speaker on these matters. Her insights on these and other matters appear in the Bureau of National Affairs, Spencer Publications, the Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Business Journal, the Houston Business Journal, Modern and many other national and local publications.   You can learn more about Ms. Stamer and her experience, review some of her other training, speaking, publications and other resources, and register to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns from Ms. Stamer here.

Other Resources

If you found this update of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the other updates and publications authored by Ms. Stamer available here including:

For important information concerning this communication click here. THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TOU.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

©2012 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  Limited Non-Exclusive Right To Reprint Granted To Solutions Law Press, Inc.  All Other Rights Reserved.


[*] See 26 CFR 54.9815-2715, 29 CFR 2590.715-2715, and 45 CFR 147.200, published February 14, 2012 at 77 FR 8668.

[†] See FAQS About Affordable Care Act

Implementation (Part VIII) at http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/pdf/faq-aca8.pdf.

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