Employers and other health plan sponsors, insurers, and their administrators and service providers should consider the advisability of updating health plan cost projections, plan documents and procedures, communications and other practices in response to new and proposed guidance interpreting federal health plan rules under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) released today (November 20, 2012).
Solutions Law Press, Inc. plans will host a webex executive study group briefing to update its members and other interested persons on this new and proposed guidance on Tuesday, November 27, 2012 at Noon Central Time. Interested persons wishing details about registration for this briefing should send an e-mail here.
Guidance Released Today
Earlier today, the Departments of Labor and Health & Human Services issued guidance implementing ACA provisions that make it illegal for insurance companies to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, as well as guidance impacting wellness and disease management programs and the “essential health benefits” definition that plays a key role in defining the benefits package mandates applicable to exchange and other health plans and policies required to comply with ACA’s mandates. This guidance includes:
- A proposed rule that, beginning in 2014, prohibits health insurance companies from discriminating against individuals because of a pre-existing or chronic condition. Under the rule, insurance companies would be allowed to vary premiums within limits, only based on age, tobacco use, family size and geography. Health insurance companies would be prohibited from denying coverage to any American because of a pre-existing condition or from charging higher premiums to certain enrollees because of their current or past health problems, gender, occupation, and small employer size or industry that the agencies intend to ensure that people for whom coverage would otherwise be unaffordable and young adults have access to a catastrophic coverage plan in the individual market. See HHS Proposed Regulation – Health Insurance Market Rules available here;
- A proposed rule outlining policies and standards for coverage of essential health benefits, while giving states more flexibility to implement the Affordable Care Act. Essential health benefits are a core set of benefits that would give consumers a consistent way to compare health plans in the individual and small group markets. A companion letter on the flexibility in implementing the essential health benefits in Medicaid was also sent to states. Related to Essential Health Benefits, Actuarial Value, and Accreditation available here; and
- A proposed rule implementing and expanding employment-based wellness programs that the agencies intend to promote health and help control health care spending, while prohibiting what the agencies consider unfair underwriting practices that impermissibly discriminate based on health status. See Proposed regulations here; Study available here; Fact Sheet available here.
With this guidance impacting key plan design and cost concerns, employers and other health plan sponsors, plan fiduciaries and administrators, insurers and their vendors will need to act quickly to evaluate the potential implications of this guidance in light of already existing rules and enforcement positions, their plan design and costs, and market and other factors.
Today’s Guidance Just Tip of Iceberg
The guidance published today is the first in an expected deluge of regulatory pronouncements that HHS, DOL, the Internal Revenue Service and state insurance agencies are expected to issue as the rush to finalize arrangements and guidance governing the implementation and enforcement of the ACA health care reforms scheduled to take effect and to tweek guidance on provisions already effective under the law. This guidance adds to the extensive list of previously issued guidance previously published by the Agencies since Congress passed ACA. With the election behind the US and the Supreme Court having rejected initial challenges by businesses and individuals to the employer and individual mandates last Summer, employers and insurers now must get cracking to update their programs and cost estimates to comply with both existing and new guidance while keeping a close eye out for potential changes to ACA or other federal or state health coverage laws as the new Congress is expected to continue to discuss refinements or other changes when the new Congress begins work in January 2013.
What Should Employers Do To Cope With These & Other Health Plan Mandates?
Facing the operational and financial challenges of meeting these mandates, many business leaders continue report significant concern about what they should do to respond to these requirements. For some practical steps that businesses confronting these issues should take to cope with ACA and other health plan responsibilities, check out the “12 Steps Every Employer With A Health Plan Should Do Now” article by Cynthia Marcotte Stamer in the October 26, 2012 online edition of Texas CEO Magazine. To read the full article, see here.
Clearly in light of the new guidance, employers, insurers, health plan fiduciaries and their service providers need to act quickly to familiarize themselves with the guidance and make any need adjustments to their plans, communications, practices and budgets warranted by the new guidance and remain vigilent for and prepared to do the same with other guidance and reform proposals as it is released.
Beyond responding to the new guidance and other future developments, most health plan sponsors, insurers, administrators and other fiduciaries, and their vendors also should consider conducting this specific analysis and update of their health benefit programs in the context of a broader strategy.
In her 12-Steps Article, Ms. Stamer writes, “While most employers and insurers of employment-based group health plans view with great concern radically expanded health plan responsibilities taking effect in 2014, many are failing to take steps critical to manage exposures and costs already arising from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and other federal health plan regulations.”
In the article, Ms Stamer discusses the following 12 steps that she suggests most businesses consider to help catch up with current responsibilities and to help their business manage future costs and responsibilities:
- Know The Cast Of Characters & What Hat(s) They Wear
- Know What Rules Apply, and How They Affect a Group Health Plan
- Review and Update Health Plan Documents to Meet Requirements and Manage Exposure
- Update the Plan For Changing Compliance Requirements and Enhanced Defensibility
- Consistency Matters: Build Good Plan Design, Documentation and Processes, and Follow Them
- Ensure the Correct Party Carefully Communicates About Coverage and Claims in a Compliant, Timely, Prudent, Provable Manner
- Prepare For ACA’s Expanded Data Gathering and Reporting Requirements
- Select, Contract and Manage Vendors With Care
- Help Plan Members Build Their Health Care Coping Skills With Training and Supportive Tools
- Pack The Parachute and Locate The Nearest Exit Doors
- Get Moving On Compliance and Risk Management Issues
- Provide Input On Affordable Care Act Rules
For Help or More Information
If you need help reviewing and updating, administering or defending your group health or other employee benefit, human resources, insurance, health care matters or related documents or practices to respond to emerging health plan regulations, monitoring or commenting on these rules, defending your health plan or its administration, or other health or employee benefit, human resources or risk management concerns, please contact the author of this update, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.
About Ms. 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 cutting edge 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 monitor legislative and regulatory developments and to deal with Congressional and state legislators, regulators, and enforcement officials concerning 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 registerto receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns see here or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at 469.767.8872 or via e-mail to email@example.com.
About Solutions Law Press
Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources at www.solutionslawpress.com including:
- New Employee Smart Phone App New Tool In Labor Department’s Aggressive Wage & Hour Law Enforcement Campaign Against Restaurant & Other Employers
- 12 Steps Every Employer With A Health Plan Should Do Now No Matter Who Wins the Election
- Boost Employee Recognition of Value Of Employer & Other Retirement Savings Tools & Plans
- Texas Landscaper’s $106,000 In Minimum Wage & Overtime Settlement Reminds Employers To Prepare For FLSA Enforcement
- NLRB’s Nailing of Bel Air Hotel Reminder RIFs, Other Reengineering & Transactions Impacting Workforce Requirement Proper Risk Management
- Tighten Employment Disability Risk Management As Obama Declares 12/10 National Disability Employment Awareness Month
- Tighten Disability Discrimination Defenses As National Disability Employment Awareness Month Promises To Whip Up New Claims & Awareness
- Settlement of OFCCP Employment Discrimination Charge Reminder To ARRA, Other Government Contractors Of Heightened Enforcement Risks
- $1.25M NLRB Backpay Order Highlights Risks of Mismanaging Union Risks In Health Care & Others M&A Deals
- As EEOC Steps Up ADA Accommodation Enforcement, New DOD Apple App, Other Resources Released
- $1.5 M HIPAA Security Breach Resolution Agreement Shows Looming HIPAA Risks
- Labor Risks Rising For Employers Despite NLRB Loss Of Arizona Secret Ballot Challenge
- USI Advisors Will Pay $1.27 Million To Settle Charges It Violated ERISA Fee Disclosure Requirements
- Wal-Mart Settlement Shows ADA Risks When Considering Employee Return To Work Accommodation Requests & Inquiries
- Record $2.3 Million+ H-2A Backpay Order Plus Civil Money Penalty Reminds Businesses Employing Foreign Workers To Manage Compliance
- Supreme Court Decision Puts Health Plans Under Fire To Complete ACA-Required Summary of Benefits & Communications & Other Health Plan Updates
- $27M+ Settlement Highlights Fiduciary Risks Plan Sponsors & Fiduciaries Risk If Plan Vendors, Compensation Improperly Set
- Employers & Plan Fiduciaries Reminded To Confirm Credentials & Bonding For Internal Staff, Plan Fidiciaries & Vendors Dealing With Benefits
- HIPAA & Texas Law Require HIPAA Training
- EBSA Updates Guidance On Fee Disclosure Requirements For 401(k) Plan Brokerage Window Arrangements
- Federal Mandate That Employer Health Plans Must Cover 100% Of Contraceptive, Other Women’s Health Services With No Cost Sharing Now Effective
- Use NIH & Other Free Government Resources To Help Round Out Wellness Programs
- OCR Hits Alaska Medicaid For $1.7M+ For HIPAA Security Breach
- Model Language May Aid Section 83(b) Elections Even As Executive & Other Special Compensation Carry Growing Liability Traps
- IRS To Offer Help For U.S. Citizens Overseas With Foreign Retirement Plans, Dual Citizenship Tax Issues
- New EEOC State Discrimination Charge Data Helpful Employer Risk Assessment Tool Discrimination Exposures Grow
- IRS Changing Individual Taxpayer ID Number Application Requirements
- Insurer Group Health Inc. To Refund $500,00+ & Change Claims Practices To Settle NY AG Charges It Wrongfully Denied Coverage
- NLRB Moves To Promote Non-Union Employee Use of Collective Action Rights By Launching Webpage
- Making Wellness Work On A Shoestring Budget
- Update Health Plans For Expanded MHPAEA & Health Care Reform Mental Health Mandates
If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile at here or e-mailing this information here.
©2012 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press. All other rights reserved.