Senate Republican Leaders unveiled their proposal to reform Obamacare on Thursday, the “Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.”
Read the language and share your thoughts here or in our forums on Linkedin or Facebook.
Senate Republican Leaders unveiled their proposal to reform Obamacare on Thursday, the “Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.”
Read the language and share your thoughts here or in our forums on Linkedin or Facebook.
Register Now To Participate In
Solutions Law Press, Inc™ Health Plan Update WebEx Briefing
Tuesday, June 27, 2017
10:30 A.M.-11:30 P.M. Eastern | 11:30 A.M.-12:30 P.M. Central
EXPANDING REGULATORY REQUIREMENTS & ENFORCEMENT SPELL TROUBLE FOR HEALTH PLANS AND THEIR SPONSORING EMPLOYERS.
Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ invites employer and other group health plan sponsors, fiduciaries, insurers, administrative service providers, plan brokers and consultants are invited learn critical information about their expanding risks and responsibilities arising from existing and proposed changes to rules and enforcement of federal group health plan mental health and substance abuse (MH/SUB) coverage and privacy rules under the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA), as supplemented by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the 21st Century Cures Act (Cures Act) and the Privacy Rules of the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA) conducted by attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, a Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefits recognized as among the “Best Lawyers” in employee benefits for her health and other benefit knowledge, experience, policy advocacy and thought leadership. Register here now!
Tightening Health Plan Mental Health & Substance Abuse Rules & Enforcement Make Group Health Plan Compliance Critical
New and proposed guidance jointly published June 16, 2017 by the Departments of Labor (DOL), Health & Human Services (HHS) and Treasury is the latest in a series of regulatory and enforcement developments over the past year alerting group health plans and their employer and other group health plan sponsors, fiduciaries, insurers, administrative services providers, plan brokers and consultants involved in health plan design, funding, or administration to get serious about their group health plans’ compliance with the MHPAEA federal group health plan mental health and substance abuse coverage and benefit requirements, as supplemented by the ACA and the Cures Act without running afoul of the Privacy Rules of HIPAA.
Building upon federal group health plan mental health parity mandates originally implemented under the Mental Health Parity Act, the MHPAEA generally requires that any financial requirements or treatment limitations group health plans impose on mental health and substance use disorder (MH/SUD) benefits not be restrictive than the predominant financial requirements and treatment limitations that apply to substantially all medical and surgical benefits. MHPAEA also imposes several disclosure requirements on group health plans and health insurance issuers. Not satisfied with the MHPAEA coverage and disclosure protections, however, Congress subsequently broadened federal MH/SUD benefit rights under group health plans through the enactment of the ACA and the Cures Act. Congress also has imposed special requirements and protections for mental health treatment records adds additional responsibilities for group health plans and their service providers when dealing with information and records in connection with the administration of MH/SUD benefits.
After a long period of lax oversight and enforcement of these federal group health plan mental health rules, the Departments of Labor (DOL), Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Treasury (collectively, the Departments) since October, 2016 have begun both tightening the rules and acting to increase oversight and enforcement. The Departments have issued a series of joint guidance clarifying and broadening their interpretations of these MH/SUD benefit and disclosure mandates while simultaneously taking steps to increase awareness and enforcement of these rights. As part of these ongoing efforts, Departments’ on June 16, 2017 expanded this guidance with their publication of new Mental Health Parity Implementation FAQs Part 38 discussing their joint interpretation of the broadening effect of the enactment of the ACA and the Cure Act on these plan requirements. Concurrently, the Departments signaled their intention to add additional responsibilities for group health plans and insurers by publishing along with FAQ Part 38 a Draft MHPAEA Disclosure Template and request for comments. This latest guidance package reaffirms that the Departments are continuing efforts to increase oversight of and enforcement of MH/SUD compliance against group health plans, their sponsors, fiduciaries, insurers, and their administrative and other service providers. In the face of these developments and the reported initiation of enforcement actions by the Departments, the group health plans, their employer and other sponsors, fiduciaries, insurers, and their administrative and other service providers should move quickly to understand and update their plans and practices to comply with these recent developments while bracing for the likely need to deal with further expanded disclosure and other additional responsibilities under the MHPAEA jointly proposed by the Departments on June 16, 2017.
Beyond fulfilling these expanding MHPAEA responsibilities, health plan fiduciaries, administrators, insurers and sponsors also must ensure their health plan and its business associates comply with special rules concerning the protection, use and disclosure of mental health treatment records and information that may impact certain mental health treatment and other records received, used, retained or disclosed in the course of administering mental health, substance abuse or other provisions of their group health plans under the HIPAA Privacy Rules. Keeping in mind that HHS audit and enforcement of compliance by health plans and other HIPAA covered entities with HIPAA’s medical privacy and data security rules, health plan sponsors, fiduciaries, insurers and administrative and other service providers also should take the opportunity to verify that their plans and practices comply with special HIPAA rules impacting authorizations and other dealings with certain mental health and substance abuse health information and records and other HIPAA medical privacy and security requirements.
Given these developments, group health plans, their sponsors, fiduciaries, insurers and administrator must take steps to verify and maintain compliance with these federal MH/SUD requirements. Ensuring proper compliance with these federal rules is particularly important to avoid triggering the substantial liability that health plans, their employer and other sponsors, insurers, and administrators can incur if their health plan violates these mandates. Obviously, plans and their sponsors, insurers and fiduciaries can expect to pay additional plan expenses necessary to pay wrongfully denied benefits and other expenditures these plan or its fiduciaries expend to investigate, defend and resolve claims or compliance audits, investigations, litigation or actions brought by the Departments, state insurance regulators with respect to state governments or insurers, or private litigation by participants or beneficiaries. Many employer or other plan sponsors may be unaware that these violations also generally expose employers and other health plan sponsors to liability to self identify, self-report on Internal Revenue Service Form 8928 and self-pay and excise tax of up to $100 per participant per day per uncorrected violation by the due date for filing of their annual corporate tax return.
With oversight and enforcement already rising and the Departments proposing to expand further both disclosure duties and enforcement, group health plans, their employer and other sponsors, insurers, fiduciaries and administrators clearly need to take prompt action to verify their existing health plan provisions and administrative practices are up-to-date and administered to withstand challenge from the Departments, participants, beneficiaries, health care providers and others. Consequently, employer and other group health plan sponsors, fiduciaries, insurers, administrative services providers, plan brokers and consultants involved in health plan design, funding, or administration should act quickly to verify their plan terms and practices are updated to comply with existing rules and share their input in response to the Departments June 16, 2017 requests for comments.
ABOUT CYNTHIA MARCOTTE STAMER
Recognized as “Legal Leader™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in both Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law, a “Texas Top Lawyer,” and an “AV-Preeminent” and “Top Rated Lawyer” by Martindale-Hubble, singled out as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” in employee benefits by D Magazine; Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely recognized for her nearly 30 years’ of work and pragmatic thought leadership, publications and training on health coverage and health care, health plan and employee benefits, workforce and related regulatory and other compliance, performance management, risk management, product and process development, public policy, operations and other concerns.
Throughout her legal and consulting career, Ms. Stamer has drawn recognition for combining extensive knowledge and experience with her talents as an insightful innovator and problem solver when advising, representing and defending employer and other plan sponsors, insurers, fiduciaries, insurers, electronic and other technology, plan administrators and other service providers, governments and others about health coverage, benefit program design, funding, documentation, administration, data security and use, contracting, plan, public and regulatory reforms and enforcement, and other risk management and operations matters as well as for her work and thought leadership on a broad range of other health, employee benefits, human resources and other workforce, insurance, tax, compliance and other matters. Her experience encompasses leading and supporting the development and defense of innovative new programs, practices and solutions; advising and representing clients on routine plan establishment, plan documentation and contract drafting and review, administration, change and other compliance and operations crisis prevention and response, compliance and risk management audits and investigations, enforcement actions and other dealings with the US Congress, Departments of Labor, Treasury, Health & Human Services, Federal Trade Commission, Justice, state legislatures, attorneys general, insurance, labor, worker’s compensation, and other agencies and regulators, She also provides strategic and other supports clients in defending litigation as lead strategy counsel, special counsel and as an expert witness.
A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, the American Bar Foundation and the Texas Bar Foundation, Ms. Stamer also shares shared her thought leadership, experience and advocacy on these and other concerns by her service in the leadership of a broad range of other professional and civic organization including her involvement as Executive Director of the Coalition on Responsible Health Policy and its PROJECT COPE; Coalition on Patient Empowerment, a founding Board Member and past President of the Alliance for Healthcare Excellence, past Board Member and Board Compliance Committee Chair for the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas; former Board President of the early childhood development intervention agency, The Richardson Development Center for Children; current Vice Chair of the ABA Tort & Insurance Practice Section Employee Benefits Committee, current Vice Chair of Policy for the Life Sciences Committee of the ABA International Section, Past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Section, Past Group Chair, current Defined Contribution Plan Committee Co-Chair, former Welfare Committee Chair and Co-Chair of the ABA RPTE Section Employee Benefits Group, immediate past RPTE Representative to ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits Council Representative and current RPTE Representative to the ABA Health Law Coordinating Counsel, former Coordinator and a Vice-Chair of the Gulf Coast TEGE Council TE Division, past Chair of the Dallas Bar Association Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Committee, former member of the Board of Directors of the Southwest Benefits Association and others.
Ms. Stamer also is a highly popular lecturer, symposia chair and author, who publishes and speaks extensively on health and managed care industry, human resources, employment and other privacy, data security and other technology, regulatory and operational risk management for the American Bar Association, ALI-ABA, American Health Lawyers, Society of Human Resources Professionals, the Southwest Benefits Association, the Society of Employee Benefits Administrators, the American Law Institute, Lexis-Nexis, Atlantic Information Services, The Bureau of National Affairs (BNA), InsuranceThoughtLeaders.com, the Society of Professional Benefits Administrators, Benefits Magazine, Employee Benefit News, Texas CEO Magazine, HealthLeaders, the HCCA, ISSA, HIMSS, Modern Healthcare, Managed Healthcare, Institute of Internal Auditors, Society of CPAs, Business Insurance, Employee Benefits News, World At Work, Benefits Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Morning News, the Dallas Business Journal, the Houston Business Journal, and many other symposia and publications. She also has served as an Editorial Advisory Board Member for human resources, employee benefit and other management focused publications of BNA, HR.com, Employee Benefit News, InsuranceThoughtLeadership.com and many other prominent publications and speaks and conducts training for a broad range of professional organizations and for clients, serves on the faculty and planning committee of many workshops, seminars, and symposia, and on the Advisory Boards of InsuranceThoughtLeadership.com, HR.com, Employee Benefit News, and many other publications. For additional information about Ms. Stamer, see CynthiaStamer.com or contact Ms. Stamer via email to here or via telephone to (469) 767-8872.
About Solutions Law Press
Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, 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, Inc.™ resources at www.SolutionsLawPress.com.
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Employer and other group health plan sponsors, fiduciaries, insurers and other plan vendors should verify the adequacy of their current health plan or policy’s mental health coverage rules and administration with existing federal mental health coverage and disclosure requirements imposed by the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA) in light of expanding responsibilities and enforcement risks highlighted by new guidance jointly published by the Departments of Labor (DOL), Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Treasury (collectively, the Departments) on June 16, 2017 concerning the effect of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the 21st Century Cures Act (Cures Act) on the MHPAEA as well as the latest guidance on federal privacy and data security rules on the use, protection and disclosure of mental health and substance abuse related health information and records under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).
Solutions Law Press, Inc. will host a webinar update on these federal mental health and substance abuse requirements including the new and proposed MHPAEA guidance and recent HIPAA developments 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Central Time on June 27, 2017.
Prepare For Expanded Federal Mental Health & Substance Abuse Disclosure Requirements, Enforcement
Generally, MHPAEA requires that the financial requirements and treatment limitations imposed on mental health and substance use disorder (MH/SUD) benefits cannot be more restrictive than the predominant financial requirements and treatment limitations that apply to substantially all medical and surgical benefits as well as imposes several disclosure requirements for informing participants and beneficiaries about those requirements on group health plans and health insurance issuers. See Internal Revenue Code sections 9812(a)(4) and 9815; Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) sections 104(b), 502(c), 503, 712(a)(4) and 715; Public Health Services Act (PHS Act) sections 2726(a)(4) and 2719.
Since enacting the MHPAEA, federal requirements for mental health and substance abuse coverage and disclosure requirements were further expanded as a result of the enactment of the ACA. Furthermore, provisions of the Cures Act enacted on December 13, 2016 sought to improve compliance with MHPAEA by requiring the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Treasury to solicit feedback from the public on how to improve disclosure of the information required under MHPAEA and other laws.
The Departments previously already published a series of guidance addressing disclosure obligations under MHPAEA and other laws. See, e.g., 26 CFR 54.9812-1(d)(3) and 54.9815-2719; 29 CFR 2520.104b-1, 2560.503-1, 2590.712(d)(3) and 2590.715-2719; 45 CFR 146.136(d)(3), 147.136 and 147.160; See also 78 FR 68240, 68247 (Nov. 13, 2013); See also Affordable Care Implementation FAQs, Part V, Q&A-10, available here and here; Affordable Care Act Implementation FAQs, Part XVII, Q&A-8, available here and here; Affordable Care Act Implementation FAQs, Part XXIX, Q&A-12 and 13, available here and here; and Affordable Care Implementation FAQs, Part 31, Q&A-9, available here and here; and Affordable Care Act Implementation FAQs, Part 34, Q&A-1, available here and here.
The MHPAEA provisions and implementing regulations expressly provide that a plan or issuer must disclose the criteria for medical necessity determinations with respect to MH/SUD benefits to any current or potential participant, beneficiary, or contracting provider upon request and must make available the reason for any denial of reimbursement or payment for services with respect to MH/SUD benefits to the participant or beneficiary.
By expanding and supplementing the prior guidance, Mental Health Parity Implementation FAQs Part 38 published June 16 officially announces the Departments now are raising further the bar the Departments expect health plans and insurers to meet to fulfill the MHPAEA’s requirements for informing participants and beneficiaries about their mental health and substance abuse coverage and benefit rights under their plans in light of the enactment of the ACA and Cures Act.
Beyond confirming their heightened disclosure expectations, the Departments also published and invited comments on a Draft MHPAEA Disclosure Template that participants and beneficiaries could use to request mental health coverage and benefit information form plans and insurers as well as PRA Information Collection Request requesting comments on the proposed disclosure template and other mental health and substance abuse issues and guidance.
Unquestionably, the Departments’ joint publication of the guidance package and proposed model notice clearly signal that the Departments plan to step up efforts to hold health plans and insurers responsible for properly notifying participants and beneficiaries about their their mental health and substance abuse rights under the MHPAEA, the ACA and the Cures Act. Beyond this probable increase in enforcement and the proposed imposition of new additional responsibilities proposed in the new guidance, publication of guidance like this usually signals in enhanced audit and enforcement.
Real Health Plan Compliance Exposures Already Exist Today
While bracing for new responsibilities and tighter enforcement, employer and other health plan sponsors, health insurers, plan fiduciaries and others involved in health benefit administration also need to appreciate that the exposure to agency and private enforcement actions isn’t just a future concern. Mental health coverage compliance exposures already present substantial risks today.
After years of relatively lax enforcement of mental health mandates, the Departments over the past year began stepping up outreach and enforcement of the federal mandates in response to pressure fueled by growing public and Congressional pressure arising from concern over the U.S. opioid epidemic, mass shootings committed by persons suffering mental illness and other highly publicized events. In fact, HHS and DOL since as early as October, 2016 already have taken a series of deliberate steps to strengthen compliance and enforcement of federal mental health coverage and other laws which already are increasing public and private oversight and enforcement by the Departments, state agencies and participants and beneficiaries.
Violations Create Substantial Liability Exposures For Employers & Other Sponsors, Plans & Insurers
Ensuring proper compliance with these federal rules is critical because violations can trigger substantial liability for the plans as well as employer and other sponsors. These mental health rules are among the federal health plan mandates that trigger employer excise tax liability and Form 8928 excise tax self assessment and payment obligations under the Internal Revenue Code. Consequently, in addition to the claims and fiduciary liabilities that violations of these mental health mandates can create for group health plans and their fiduciaries, violations also expose employers and other health plan sponsors to liability to self identify, self-report on Internal Revenue Service Form 8928 and self-pay and excise tax of up to $100 per participant per day per uncorrected violation by the due date for filing of their business’ annual tax return.
Participate in June 27 Webex To Learn Key Information
Solutions Law Press, Inc will host a webinar briefing on the mental health rules including the new guidance from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Central Time on June 27, 2017. The webinar will cover:
If you are interested in receiving an invite to the webinar, e-mail here.