New Affordable Care Act Guidance Helps Some Health Plans Stay Grandfathered

Affordable Care Act To Require Health Plans Cover Contraception & Other Women’s Health Procedures Beginning In 2012

Contraception Mandate Might Not Apply To Certain Religious Employer Plans

Starting with plan years beginning after July 31, 2011, most employer and union sponsored group health plans and group and individual health insurers generally must cover contraceptive and certain other preventive services for women (“Women’s Preventive Services”) at no cost to comply with federal rules that these programs cover preventive care for members with no cost sharing enacted as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“ACA”).

On Monday, August 1, 2011, the Department of Health & Human Services (“HHS”) on Monday, August 1, 2011 announced guidelines (Women’s Preventive Services Guidelines”) that add contraception and a list of women’s health procedures to the preventive care procedures that ACA requires covered health plans and health insurance policies covered by the Affordable Care Act to cover without cost to members. ACA’s general preventive coverage rules generally have required covered health plans and policies to cover without cost a broad list of other preventive care procedures since the first plan year beginning after September 22, 2009. 

Interim Final Regulations implementing ACA’s new preventive care mandate published July 14, 2010 interpreted this ACA preventive care mandate broadly to dictate that ACA covered health plans and health insurers cover as preventive services at no member cost hundreds of procedures.

Concerning the Women’s Preventive Services, however, the Interim Final Regulations delayed implementation of requirements to cover Women’s Preventive Services until August 1, 2011 to give time to HRSA time to issue its recommendations about what procedures should qualify as Women’s Preventive Services.  When HRSA failed to finalize its input by August 1, 2011, HHS finalized its list of required Women’s Preventive Services now rather than to continue waiting for HRSA’s final input.   

Finalization of the list of required Women’s Preventive Services now means covered health plans and policies must add coverage for these listed procedures with no co-pay beginning with all post-July 31, 2012 plan years.

While the published list of required Women’s Preventive Services generally mandates that ACA-covered health plans and policies cover contraceptive services for women at no cost beginning in 2012, some plans sponsored by religious employers and group health policies covering these groups may be exempt from the duty to coverage contraception under a new regulation that HHS, along with the Department of Labor Employee Benefit Services Administration (“EBSA) and the Department of Treasury Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”)(collectively, the “Agencies”) will jointly publish in the Federal Register on August 3, 2011.  See here for more detailed information.

Plans & Insurers Should Review & Update Preventive Care & Other Wellness Benefits

Non-grandfathered health plans and policies, their sponsors, insurers, fiduciaries and administrators should carefully review and update their health plans for compliance with the existing preventive care mandates and other evolving rules about disease management and wellness benefits and coverages, as well as to consider the impending requirement to comply with additional Women’s Preventive Services coverage requirements in 2012 as part of their plan design and cost projections.

Existing health plans and health insurance should be reviewed to ensure that the programs appropriately cover all preventive services currently required by the applicable ACA mandates or other laws and re-reviewed for compliance with any updated rules before each plan year to identify any additional costs, changes to plan documents, communications, administrative procedures and vendor contracts required to administer the health plan in accordance with existing rules.  For 2012, this should specifically consider the need to comply with the new Women’s Preventive Services coverage requirements that take effect next plan year also should be considered.

In addition to specifically planning for compliance with ACA’s preventive services coverage mandates, all health plans and policies, their sponsors, insurers, fiduciaries and administrators should review the other wellness and disease management components of their plans. In addition to ACA compliance, these arrangements may need redesign to minimize emerging exposures to challenge by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) or private plaintiffs under the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”).  Since the Obama Administration took office, the EEOC has taken the position that many common wellness and disease management programs violate the ADA.  In addition to these exposures, amendments to the nondiscrimination requirements of the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (“HIPAA”), new nondiscrimination rules added by the Genetic Information & Nondiscrimination Act (“GINA”), federal mental health parity rules, evolving Affordable Care Act claims, coverage and other rules and guidance about essential benefits and other statutory, regulatory and enforcement changes often require updates to common disease management and wellness programs as well as other health plan provisions.  Appropriate steps should be taken to review and update these and other plan terms, procedures, communications and practices to maintain compliance and support the ability to enforce plan terms and rely on plan cost projections.

The author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer frequently conducts training and publishes on these and other matters. She is scheduled to speak about these and other changing health plan requirements in light of health care reform at the September 14, 2011 Houston WEB Chapter lunch and will be conducting briefings on preventive care, wellness and disease management and other rules for several other organizations over the next few months.  You can find out about upcoming training or other events and get updates at

For Help With These Or Other Health Plan Or Employee Benefit Matter

If you would like help reviewing or defending your organizations health plan or other insurance or employee benefit and employment practices in light of these or other laws, please contact attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.

Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group, 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 23 years of work, advocacy, education and publications on employee benefit and related matters. 

A board certified labor and employment attorney Ms. Stamer continuously advises and assists employee benefit plans, their sponsoring employers, fiduciaries, insurers, administrators 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 programs and practices.  She works extensively with plan sponsors, insurers, administrators, technology and other service providers and others to develop and operate legally defensible programs, practices and policies that promote the client’s human resources, employee benefits or other management goals.  Ms. Stamer also is a widely published author and highly regarded speaker on these and other employee benefit and human resources matters who is active in many other employee benefits, human resources and other management focused organizations. 

You can review other recent human resources, employee benefits and internal controls publications and resources and additional information about the employment, employee benefits and other experience of Ms. Stamer here. Some recent publications and programs that may be of interest include:

Ms. Stamer is scheduled to conduct training on these and other health benefit requirements for a number of organizations over the upcoming month.  For information about these and other training opportunities or for other resources and information, see here or contact Ms. Stamer directly.

For Help or More Information

If you have questions or need help understanding or responding to the Regulations, with other health benefit design, administration or operations concerns, or with other employee benefits, compensation, labor or employment or other workforce management concerns, please contact the author of this update, Board Certified Labor and Employment attorney and management consultant Cynthia Marcotte Stamer here or at (469)767-8872.

Past Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Chair of the ABA RPTE Employee Benefit and Other Compensation Committee, and a council member of the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, Ms. Stamer is nationally recognized for her more than 23 years pragmatic and innovative health program work.

Board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization with extensive leading edge health plan experience, Ms. Stamer has worked continuously throughout her career helping health plan sponsors, fiduciaries, administrators, insurers and others design, administer and defend health and other employee benefit and insurance programs domestically and internationally. She is widely recognized for her experience helping design and implement legally compliant self-insured and insured health reimbursement, mini-med, high-deductible health plans, limited benefit plans, 24-hour and occupational medicine, ex-pat and medical tourism, deductible reimbursement and other creative health benefit programs to solve a wide range of financial and other challenges while coping with changing regulatory and market realities. Her work includes both working with clients to design, document, implement and administer these and other arrangements, as well as the development of wellness and disease management, claims administration and appeals, eligibility, and other administrative services, processes and technologies.  She also works with plan fiduciaries, plan sponsors, insurers, administrators, brokers and advisors, bankruptcy trustees, creditors, debtors, service providers and their officers and directors about the prevention, investigation, mitigation and resolutions of civil and criminal liability arising from suspected or known benefit administration claims, breaches of fiduciary duty, privacy and data security breach, vendor disputes and other disputes arising in relation to employee benefit and insurance arrangements.  As a continuing part of this representation, Ms. Stamer regularly represents and defends plan sponsors, fiduciaries, third party administrators and other service providers and management officials in dealings with the Department of Labor, Department of Justice, Department of Health & Human Services, Department of Defense, Securities and Exchange Commission, state insurance regulators, state attorneys general and other federal and state regulators and prosecutors and private plaintiffs in connection with investigations, prosecutions, audits and other actions arising from employee benefit, insurance and related arrangements and products.

Recognized in the International Who’s Who of Professionals and bearing the Martindale Hubble Premier AV-Rating, Ms. Stamer also is a highly regarded author and speaker, who regularly conducts management and other training on a wide range of labor and employment, employee benefit, human resources, internal controls and other related risk management matters.  Her writings frequently are published by the American Bar Association (ABA), Aspen Publishers, Bureau of National Affairs, the American Health Lawyers Association, SHRM, World At Work, Government Institutes, Inc., Atlantic Information Services, Employee Benefit News, and many others. For a listing of some of these publications and programs, see here. Her insights on human resources risk management matters also have been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, various publications of The Bureau of National Affairs and Aspen Publishing, the Dallas Morning News, Spencer Publications, Health Leaders, Business Insurance, the Dallas and Houston Business Journals and a host of other publications. In addition to her many ABA leadership involvements, she also serves in leadership positions in numerous human resources, corporate compliance, and other professional and civic organizations. 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, World At Work, the ICEBS, SHRM and many other national and local publications. For additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience or to access other publications by Ms. Stamer see here or contact Ms. Stamer directly.

About Solutions Law Press

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©2011 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  Non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press.  All other rights reserved.

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