Group Health Plans & Insurer To Get More Time To Meet Affordable Care Act Summary of Benefits and Coverage Requirements

December 7, 2011

Delayed Deadline Allows Much Needed Time To Continue Preparations

Group health plans and insurers, their sponsors, fiduciaries, administrators and other services providers are getting more time to comply with the Affordable Care Act’s new Summary of Benefits and Coverage (“SBC”) mandate beyond the March 23, 2012 deadline originally set forth in the Proposed Regulations jointly published by  the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Labor and the Treasury (the Departments). Plans, their insurers and administrators should make good use of this time to continue the time consuming planning and preparations expected to be required to comply with the final rules.

As amended by the Affordable Care Act, Public Health Service Act (“PHS Act”) § 2715 PHS requires group health plans and health insurance issuers to provide a “Summary of Benefits and Coverage” and “Uniform Glossary” meeting standards developed by the Departments.

In August, 2011, the Departments jointly published proposed regulations and accompanying templates detailing the content, format, supplements and other requirements that they proposed requiring health plans and health insurers to meet to satisfy the SBC requirements. 

If implemented in final form as proposed, group health plans and insurers, their sponsors, administrators and fiduciaries can expect that significant work will be required to evaluate and prepare the SBC and associated adjustments to plan documents, summary plan descriptions and other materials and practices that are likely to be required in response to the new requirements.  Since health plan documents and insurance contracts are unlikely to already use the same definitions as the SBC regulations require be used in the Glossary,  group health insurers and self-insured group health plans, their sponsors, fiduciaries and other administrators generally will want to review and adjust definitions and other plan document and insurance cotnract provisions to eliminate inconsistencies and address other concerns.  Likewise, adjustments to summary plan descriptions, certificates of benefits and other communication materials also likely will be needed.  Furthermore, most health insurers and group health plan may want to reevaluate claims and other cost and reserve projections and consider other adjustments in response to potential implications of these adjustments.  

As originally proposed by the Departments, health plans and issuers faced a March 23, 2012 deadline to begin complying with the SBC rules.  Since August, 2011, we and various other attorneys from the American Bar Association RPTE and Tax leadership, as well as others have shared concerns with representatives of the Departments about the compliance deadlines and other aspects of the Proposed Rules.  New guidance released by the Departments in November reflects that the Departments are taking this input to heart.

According to joint guidance issued by the Departments in November, the health plans and insurers will not be expected to comply by March 23.  Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) guidance jointly issued by the Departments indicates that health plans and health insurers will not be required to comply with the SBC mandate until after the Departments issue finalize regulations.

According to the FAQ, the Departments’ final regulations, once issued, will include an applicability date that allows group health plans and health insurance issuers “sufficient time to comply.”  The FAQ does not indicate when the Departments expect to publish final regulations or the length of the period following this publication that the Departments anticipate health plans and issuers will have to come into compliance.

This news provides welcome relief for group health plans and insurers, and the employers, administrators and others working to update and administer group health plans in response to the Affordable Care Act.  Health plans, insurers, their sponsors, administrators and service providers are cautioned to make good use of this added time to begin preparing to respond quickly when regulations are finalized.  While the Departments are expected to make various refinements when finalizing the regulations beyond adjusting the compliance deadline, plans and insurers are expected to be required to engage in significant planning and other preparations to meet the revised rules.  In light of this, health insurers and group health plans, their sponsors, administrators and fiduciaries generally are advised to continue these preparations based upoln the guidance set forth in the proposed regulations so that they can be prepared to respond in a timely fashion to the final regulations.

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, 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 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 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 including:

For important information concerning this communication click here. THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.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.

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, compensation, data security and privacy, health care, insurance, and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and other key operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources available at www.solutionslawpress.com

THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.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.

©2011 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press.  All other rights reserved.

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HHS Chides Insurer For “Excessive” Premium Increases After Affordable Care Act Rate Audit

November 21, 2011

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is seeking to publicly shame Everence Insurance of Pennsylvania for charging small businesses what HHS claims are “unreasonably high” premium increases.

According to HHS, its first federal rate review under the Affordable Care Act found that Everence’s 12 percent rate increase for small businesses in Pennsylvania.  After reviewing the rate, HHS says independent experts determined the choice of assumptions the company based its rate increase on reflected national data rather than reliable and available state data.  These assumptions resulted in what HHS characterizes as an “unreasonably high premium in relation to the benefits provided to small businesses by Everence Insurance of Pennsylvania.

While the Affordable Care Act gave HHS the ability to conduct and publish health insurer rate reviews but does not grant HHS the authority to actually force covered health insurers to change their rates.  While some state laws may give state regulators this authority, HHS’ authority remains limited to drawing public attention to carrier rate increases that HHS perceives as excessive. 

In an effort to use public opinion to chastise Everence Insurance of Pennsylvania, HHS is using its media might to publicize its findings.  “We have called on this insurer to immediately rescind the rate, issue refunds to consumers or publicly explain their refusal to do so,” said Steve Larsen, director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

HHS’s announcement of its findings about Everence Insurance of Pennsylvania marks the first of many reviews that HHS will do in addition to insurance rate reviews already being done by states.  HHS says it intends to review all health insurer proposals to raise rates by 10 percent or more this year.

Targeting health insurers proposing rate increases of 10 or more percent is likely to result in a significant number of reviews.  A Kaiser Family Foundation Employer Health Benefits 2011 Annual Survey found average premiums increased 8% for single coverage and 9% for family coverage through May, 2011.

Companies that HHS finds have made excessive rate increases can either reduce their rate hikes or post a justification on their website within 10 days of the rate review determination. As of publication, Everence Insurance of Pennsylvania had not published a public rebuttal to the HHS announcement on its website or indicated how it plans to respond to the announcement.  See here.

 For More Information Or Assistance

If you need help reviewing or updating your health benefit program for compliance with ACA or other laws or with any other employment, employee benefit, compensation or internal controls matter, please contact the author of this article, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.

A 2011 inductee to the American College of Employee Benefits Council, immediate past-Chair and current Welfare Benefit Committee Co-Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPPT Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Arrangements, an ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits Council Representative, the ABA TIPS Employee Benefit Plan Committee Vice Chair, former ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group Chair, past Southwest Benefits Association Board Member, Employee Benefit News Editorial Advisory Board Member, and a widely published speaker and author,  Ms. Stamer has more than 24 years experience advising businesses, plans, fiduciaries, insurers. plan administrators and other services providers,  and governments on health care, retirement, employment, insurance, and tax program design, administration, defense and policy.   Nationally and internationally known for her creative and highly pragmatic knowledge and work on health benefit and insurance programs, Ms. Stamer’s  experience includes extensive involvement in advising and representing these and other clients on ACA and other health care legislation, regulation, enforcement and administration. 

Widely published on health benefit and other related matters, Ms. Stamer’s insights and articles have appeared in HealthLeaders, Modern Health Care, Managed Care Executive, the Bureau of National Affairs, Aspen Publishers, Business Insurance, Employee Benefit News, the Wall Street Journal, the American Bar Association, Aspen Publishers, World At Work, Spencer Publications, SHRM, the International Foundation, Solutions Law Press and many others.

For additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience, see www.CynthiaStamer.com.


Democrats Introduce Health Care Reform Legislation, Work To Fast Track Enactment

June 11, 2009

Coalition For Responsible Health Care Reform Founded To Help Concerned Americans Respond

Americans concerned about plans of President Obama and Congressional Democrats to enact comprehensive health care reform this year must speak up now.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy yesterday (June 9, 2009) circulated a 625 page proposal to radically reform the U.S. health care system.  The latest draft of the “Affordable Health Choices Act” (the “Act”) details the comprehensive health care reforms that President Obama and Democrats in Congress propose to enact before year end. 

President Obama and key Congressional Democrats are moving quickly to enact their vision for “comprehensive health reform” this year.   The Act circulated yesterday by Senator Kennedy would radically change the U.S. health care system in enacted as currently proposed. 

Consistent with announced plans by President Obama and key Congressional Democrats to enact “comprehensive health care reform” this year, Democratic leaders in Congress are rushing to enact this legislation well before year end.  In furtherance of plans to fast track enactment of the Act, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) chaired by Senator Kennedy will hold a hearing on the Act this week in anticipation of meetings to mark up of the Act on Tuesday, June 16 at 2:30 p.m. in Russell 325. 

The Act, as proposed, would make sweeping changes to the U.S. health care system and radically expand the involvement of government in the delivery and financing of health care.  Among other things, the Act as proposed would:

  • Establish government provided “Gateway” health care coverage programs to provide coverage for Americans not insured under qualifying employer or other privately run “qualified health plan” to be financed in part through surcharges on private health plans and health insurers and other taxes and assessments and in part through premiums on enrolled individuals
  • Require that Americans participating in the Gateway health care coverage programs be offered the opportunity to enroll in at least one “public health insurance option”  
  • Require Americans to chose either to enroll in a government run Gateway health program or enroll in qualifying coverage under a privately run qualified health plan
  • Impose sweeping new mandates on employer and union-sponsored group health plans and insurers
  • Impose newly created taxes on individuals that fail to maintain enrollment in health coverage under either a Gateway health program or a private qualified health plan
  • Tax and/or eliminate the deductibility of health coverage premiums and certain other amounts paid by certain employers and employees
  • Impose new federal mandates for health care providers, health plans and health insurers relating to the quality standards, the use of health care technology and other matters
  • Grant federal regulators sweeping authority to define what qualifies as appropriate health care and health care coverage, the health care services that qualify for health care coverage and the payment and delivery of health care services.

You can review a copy of currently proposed provisions of the 615 page Act here

Individuals concerned about these and other proposed health care reforms must act immediately to become familiar and share their input on the proposals.

Assistance Monitoring & Responding To Health Care Reform Proposals

If you or someone else you know would like to receive updates about health care reform proposals and other related legislative, regulatory, and enforcement developments, please:

  • Register for this resource at the link above;
  • Join the Coalition for Responsible Health Policy group at linkedin.com to share information and input;
  • Share your input by communicating with key members of Congress on committees responsible for this legislation and your elected officials directly and by actively participating in and contributing to other like-minded groups; and
  • Be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail- by creating or updating your profile at here

You can register to receive future updates on legislative and regulatory health care reform proposals and other related information by registering for this resource or access other publications by Ms. Stamer and access other helpful resources here.

Long-time health policy advocate and advisor Cynthia Marcotte Stamer has more than 22 years of experience advising and assisting clients to evaluate and respond to health care reform proposals and other proposed or adopted changes in federal or state health care, employee benefit, employment, tax and other federal and state laws.  Former Chair of the American Bar Association’s Managed Care & Insurance Section, Ms. Stamer is highly regarded legal advisor, policy advocate, author and speaker recognized both nationally and internationally for her more than 20 years of work assisting U.S. public and private employers, health care providers, health insurers, and a broad range of other clients to respond to these and other health care, employee benefit and workforce public policy, regulatory and compliance and risk management concerns within the U.S. as well as internationally.  Her work includes extensive involvement providing input and assistance about health care, workforce, pensions and social security and other reforms domestically and internationally.  In addition to her continuous involvement in U.S. health care, pensions and savings, and workforce policy matters, Ms. Stamer has served as an advisor on these matters internationally.  As part of this work, she served as a lead advisor to the Government of Bolivia on its social security reform as well as has provided input on ethics, medical tourism, workforce and other reforms internationally.

Ms. Stamer is a widely published author and popular speaker on health plan and other human resources, employee benefits and internal controls issues.   Her work has been featured and published by the American Bar Association, BNA, SHRM, World At Work, Employee Benefit News and the American Health Lawyers Association.  Her insights on human resources risk management matters have been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Business Journal, Managed Care Executive, HealthLeaders, Business Insurance, Employee Benefit News and the Dallas Morning News.

Ms. Stamer also serves in a number of professional leadership roles including the leadership council of the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, Vice Chair of the ABA Real Property, Probate & Trust Section and Employee Benefits & Compensation Group.

If your organization needs assistance with monitoring, assessing, or responding to these or other health care, employee benefit or human resources reforms,  please contact Ms. Stamer via e-mail here, or by calling (214) 270-2402.  For additional information about the experience, services, publications and involvements of Ms. Stamer specifically or to access some of her many publications, see here

Additional Resources & Information

We hope that this information is useful to you. For additional information about the experience, services, publications and involvements of Ms. Stamer specifically or to access some of her many publications, see here.  

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. All rights reserved.