2016 & 2017 Health Plan Budgets, Workplans Should Anticipate Expected Changes To SBCs

Employer and union group health plans and health insurers should plan for the need to update their processes for preparing and distributing the Summary of Benefits & Coverage (SBC) that  Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires them to distribute to covered persons as part of their preparations for their 2016 plan year enrollment periods later this year and to prepare to respond to changes to the required SBC templates used to prepare their SBCs in 2017, according a recent update on proposed changes to existing SBC guidance recently released by the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and the Treasury (collectively, the Departments).

The duty to provide SBCs imposed by Public Health Service (PHS) Act section 2715, as added by ACA and incorporated by reference into the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and the Internal Revenue Code (Code), generally requires group health plans and group and individual insurers to prepare and provide a current SBC using template forms completed and provided in accordance with regulations jointly issued by the Departments..

Currently, the content, form, timing of distribution and other conditions that group health plans and health insurers currently must meet to fulfill § 2715’s SBC mandate are governed by the SBC final regulations jointly published February 14, 2012 and an accompanying document announcing the availability of templates, instructions, and related materials, as supplemented in six sets of FAQs regarding implementation of the SBC requirements. See final regulations, published at 77 FR 8668 (February 14, 2012) and guidance document published at 77 FR 8706 (February 14, 2012); Affordable Care Act Implementation FAQs Part VII available here and here; Part VIII available here  and here;  Part IX available here  and here;  Part X available here and here;  Part XIV available here and here and Part XIX available here and here.  

While group health plans, health insurers, their sponsors and administrators have continued to rely on this existing guidance when preparing and providing currently required SBCs, concern about the lead time required to conduct the analysis and other preparations needed to prepare the SBCs, has lead most health plans, health insurers, and their sponsors or administrators to monitor the proposals to modify current SBC guidance published by the Departments on December 30, 2014, which if adopted as originally published would require updates to the SBCs effective September 1, 2015.  See here.

According to their latest update on plans to finalize these proposed changes, the Departments announced on March 30, 2015 in FAQs about Affordable Care Act Implementation (Part XXIV) that the Departments now plan to finalize changes to the regulations in the near future and for these changes to take effect for coverage that would renew or begin on the first day of the first plan year (or, in the individual market, policy year) that begins on or after January 1, 2016 (including open season periods that occur in the Fall of 2015 for coverage beginning on or after January 1, 2016).  

FAQ Part XXIV also states that the Departments intend to finalizing revisions to the SBC template and associated documents. The Departments anticipate the new template and associated documents will be finalized by January 2016 and will apply to coverage that would renew or begin on the first day of the first plan year (or, in the individual market, policy year) that begins on or after January 1, 2017 (including open season periods that occur in the Fall of 2016 for coverage beginning on or after January 1, 2017).

Employer and other group health plan sponsors, individual and group health insurers and their administrators should include the expected need to respond to these anticipated updates to the SBC requirements in their planning and budgets for the 2016 and 2017 plan years and stay tuned for the Departments publication of the final rules expected later this year and updated templates thereafter.

For Help With Risk Management, Compliance & Other Management Concerns

If you need help to assess, update or defend your organization’s health or other employee benefit, human resources or other compliance and risk management processes, policies, practices or actions, please contact the author of this update, management attorney and consultant Cynthia Marcotte Stamer here or at (469) 767-8872.

Recognized as a “Top” Lawyer in Labor & Employment, Employee Benefits and Health Care law, Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law, Past Chair of the ABA RPTE Employee Benefit & Other Compensation Arrangements Group, Co-Chair and Past Chair of the ABA RPTE Welfare Plan Committee, Vice Chair of the ABA TIPS Employee Benefit Plans Committee, an ABA Joint Committee On Employee Benefits Council representative, Past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Section, Ms. Stamer is widely recognized for her extensive, leading edge work helping employer and other plan sponsors, fiduciaries, insurers and administrators design, document, communicate, administer and defend health and other employee benefit plan designs,management manage, promote and defend health and other employee benefit plans and related human resources, insurance and other practices, policies, systems and processes.

A management attorney who helps management to promote their organizational goals by using the law and process to manage internal and external people, their performance, compensation and benefits and other operational resources and risks, Ms. Stamer has worked with a broad range of other public and private organizations with human resources, labor and employment, employee benefits, insurance and risk management, vendor and services procurement and management, contracting and policy and procedures drafting and enforcement, investigations, defense and remediation throughout her more than 27 year career.

Ms. Stamer works, publishes and speaks extensively on health and other employee benefit plan, human resources and other workforce management, reengineering, audits and investigations, internal controls and risk management, federal sentencing guideline and other enforcement resolution actions, and related matters.  She also is recognized for her publications, industry leadership, workshops and presentations on these and other  concerns and regularly speaks and conducts training on these matters.Her insights on these and other matters appear in the Bureau of National Affairs, Spencer Publications, the ABA, Insurance Thought Leadership, the Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Business Journal, the Houston Business Journal, 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.

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©2015 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  Non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press.  All other rights reserved.

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