All the talk about repeal and replace seems to have lulled many plan sponsors into a false sense of security, thinking that ACA regulations weren’t going to be enforced. Unfortunately, the IRS is preparing to begin penalizing non-compliant plans, which is why we continue to encourage our clients to keep their eye on the ball even though it is easier to follow the media frenzy coming from Capitol Hill.
The article below was published on June 23, 2017 by Employee Benefit News, written by Mark Johnson.
The new healthcare bill, revealed by U.S. Senate Republicans Thursday, could bring significant changes to organizations and their employees. Granted, there’s a long way to go before any Obamacare replacement legislation is signed. But health insurance is a complex component of running any business, and it’s important that employers start preparing for what might come.
Here are four actions items employers should be addressing now.
1. Create a roadmap. A compliance calendar is a helpful tool in identifying major deadlines. Employers are legally obligated to share health insurance and benefits updates with their employees by certain dates. Employees must be given reasonable notice — typically 30 days prior — of a major change in policy. There will likely be a set date for compliance and specific instructions around notice requirements that accompany the new legislation.
One step to compliance is adhering to benefit notice requirements. Benefit notices (i.e., HIPAA, COBRA, Summary Plan Descriptions, Special Health Care Notices, Health Care Reform, Form 5500 and others) vary by the size of the organization. Other steps can be more involved, such as required changes to plan design (e.g., copays, deductibles and coinsurance), types of services covered and annual and lifetime maximums, among others. Create a compliance calendar that reflects old and new healthcare benefit requirements so you can stay on track.
2. Rally the troops. Managing healthcare compliance spans several departments. Assemble key external and internal stakeholders by department, including HR, finance, payroll and IT.
Update the team on potential changes as healthcare legislation makes its way through Congress so they can prepare and be ready to execute should a new bill be signed. HR is responsible for communicating changes to employees and providing them with information on their plan and benefits. Finance needs to evaluate how changes in the plan will affect the company’s bottom line. Payroll must be aware of how much of an employee’s check to allocate to health insurance each month. In addition, payroll and Human Resources Information Systems (HRIS) are used to track and monitor changes in employee population, which helps employers determine benefit notice and compliance requirements. All departments need to be informed of the modified health insurance plan as soon as possible and on the same page.
3. Get connected. It’s essential to verify information as it’s released, via newsletters, seminars, healthcare carriers, payroll vendors and consultants. These resources can help employers navigate the evolving healthcare landscape. Knowledge of changes will empower an organization to handle them effectively.
4. Evaluate partnerships. There’s no better time for employers to examine their current partners, from an insurance consultant or broker to the accounting firm and legal counsel. An employer’s insurance consultant should be a trusted adviser in working on budgeting and benchmarking the company plan, administering benefits, evaluating plan performance and reporting outcomes. Finding an insurance solution that meets a company’s business goals, as well as its employee’s needs, can be accomplished with a knowledgeable, experienced insurance partner.
Staying ahead of healthcare changes is essential for organizations to have a smooth transition to an updated healthcare plan. Strategic planning, communication among departments and establishing the right partnerships are key. Employers must be proactive in addressing healthcare changes so they are ready when the time comes.
The article below was published on June 18, 2017 by Employee Benefit News, written by Brian M. Kalish.
Despite the uncertain future of the Affordable Care Act and pending replacement legislation, clients should continue finalizing their 2018 health and benefit offerings, contribution strategies, vendor terms, plan operations and employee communications, according to Mercer. The company hosted a recent webinar to share the top 10 issues for 2018.
“As employers begin to strategize for their 2018 benefit programs, it is important not to lose sight of new and ongoing compliance obligations and prepare to make any changes that may be necessary in employee benefit plan design and administration,” says Katharine Marshall, principal at Mercer. “Despite what may – or may not – come of ACA repeal and replace legislation, there are a number of compliance concerns that employers can count on sticking around – like HIPAA privacy and security requirements, mental health parity requirements and ERISA fiduciary duties, just to name a few.”
Employers and their advisers, Marshall adds, should keep these issues in focus because the consequences of sidelining them can be costly.
Employed shared responsibility strategy and reporting
Even with plans to dramatically alter or eliminate the Affordable Care Act pending in Congress, most of the legislative body’s reconciliation rules do not allow for the repeal of the employer shared responsibility, says Katharine Marshall, principal at Mercer.
While the minimum value requirement remains unchanged for 2018, affordability has decreased and an employer cannot charge a full time employee more than 9.56% of household income, down slightly from 9.69% in 2017.
It is critical for employers to document their offers of coverage and “most importantly,” waivers of that coverage, Marshall says. “As you head to 2018, correct any mistakes in prior year filings,” she adds.
Employers should review their risk of exposure for when the tax is scheduled to begin in 2020. Although the American Health Care Act as it stands now delays the implementation of the tax until 2026, the fate of that bill is uncertain, Marshall says.
The best way to do that is to review an employer’s risk of exposure by identifying plans and benefits that could be a factor, such as flexible spending accounts, health reimbursement arrangements and health savings accounts, she says. An employer should also focus on pre-65 retiree plans and high-cost plans due to geographic location and claims history.
For employers to comply with this requirement they need to stay abreast of updates to what must be covered.
Changes are made on a rolling basis. For Jan. 1, 2018, preventive services now include screening for depression in adults, low dose aspirin for certain at-risk adults ages 50-59, syphilis screening for asymptomatic non-pregnant adults, among others, Marshall says. Continue reading
The IRS has released the inflation-adjusted contribution and related amounts for health savings accounts (HSAs) and HSA-compatible high-deductible health plans, or HDHPs, for 2018. These limits are tied to changes in the Consumer Price Index by application of the cost-of-living adjustment rules. The limits for 2018 are set forth below.
2018 HSA Limits
|Annual HSA Contribution Maximum:||$3,450 for single coverage ($50 increase from $3,400)
$6,900 for family coverage ($150 increase from $6,750)
|Annual Catch-Up Contribution Maximum:||$1,000 (for HSA-eligible individuals age 55 or older) – no change|
|HDHP Minimum Deductible:||$1,350 for single coverage ($50 increase from $1,300)
$2,700 for family coverage ($100 increase from $2,600)
|HDHP Out-of-Pocket Maximum:||$6,650 for single coverage ($100 increase from $6,550)
$13,300 for family coverage ($200 increase from $13,100)
Not Legal Advice: Nothing in this Alert should be construed as legal advice.