Health care reform: Don’t wait for the politicians

The article below is from BenefitsPRO written by Dinesh Sheth on May 16, 2017.

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Let the politicians argue about who is going to pay for health care and who is not.
Photo: Getty Images

Business owners across all industries are facing uncertainty surrounding the status of current laws and regulations. A Republican majority in Congress and the new presidential administration have created a climate of de-regulation. Luckily, or perhaps unluckily, depending on your view, U.S. employers of all sizes are currently facing a potentially major regulatory change with U.S. Republicans attempting to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with their own bill: the American Health Care Act (AHCA). Now, the big question is: “What will be next?”

Aside from the implications this holds for the health care industry, enacting the ACHA would have a tremendous impact on employers by repealing the mandate that requires certain businesses to offer health insurance to their employees. While most businesses would likely support fewer regulations, repealing this mandate would do little to help them encourage healthier behaviors amongst their employees; and at the end of the day, that is the only true way to lower health care costs. Rather, repealing the mandate simply means that fewer Americans will be insured and that the cost-burden will shift to employees and their families.

Whether or not the current administration or even the public at-large wants to admit it, someone is going to pay for the costs of health care. All current or proposed laws and regulations do is juggle who is going to pay and who is not. Behind all these changes, however, it’s necessary to understand that employers need healthy, productive employees in order for their business to function, In addition, they want them to be insured at a reasonable cost, while also staying healthy and avoiding getting sick or injured. If the goal really is to lower actual costs, then this is where the real debate must be focused. Since it’s impossible to predict exactly how legislative initiatives will play out, employers should double down on their approach to employee wellbeing and examine how a holistic approach to wellness will improve the health of their workforce and bottom line, independent of laws or mandates from Washington. Continue reading

Tell your Senators to Preserve the Employer-Based System and Permanently Repeal the Cadillac/excise Tax!

The National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU)

Operation Shout!

DGBTakeActionOn May 4, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1628, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), a reconciliation bill to repeal and replace portions of the ACA. It will now be considered by the Senate, where it is expected to be significantly altered, including possibly addressing two critical NAHU policy priorities: the employer exclusion of health insurance and the Cadillac/excise Tax. NAHU strongly opposes any efforts that would undermine the employer-sponsored health insurance system by eliminating or placing a cap on the employer-tax exclusion of health insurance and is strongly advocating a full repeal of the Cadillac/excise Tax, which under the AHCA would only be temporarily delayed.

More than 175 million Americans currently receive their coverage through the employer-based system, largely due to the tax exclusion where employers provide contributions for an employee’s health insurance that are excluded from that employee’s compensation for income and payroll tax purposes. Proposals that would cap the exclusion would devalue the benefit and serve as one of the largest tax increases in history for middle-class Americans, forcing many to drop employer-sponsored insurance, including dependent coverage, and be forced to seek coverage in the volatile individual market, where premiums are ever-increasing. Employers would be incentivized to only offer coverage to their employees that would fall below the value of the cap in order to avoid paying any increased taxes, potentially resulting in a race to the bottom for employers to sponsor insurance that wouldn’t meet the cap’s thresholds and further shifting costs onto employees.

In addition to opposing proposals to cap the exclusion, we are strongly advocating a complete repeal of the Cadillac/excise Tax. Currently set to take effect in 2020 under a two-year delay, this tax calls for a 40% excise tax on the amount of the aggregate monthly premium of each primary insured individual that exceeds the year’s applicable dollar limit, which will be adjusted annually to the Consumer Price Index plus one percent. Given that the pace of medical inflation is well beyond that of general inflation, the tax is destined to outgrow itself in short order and many employers will be impacted by the cost of the tax and the enormous compliance burden that the tax creates. The AHCA, as passed by the House, would only delay the tax until fiscal year 2026.

Over the coming weeks, as the Senate debates the AHCA and the other healthcare-reform proposals, we urge all agents, brokers and your clients to tell your senators not to do anything that would undermine the employer-sponsored health insurance system and to fully repeal the Cadillac/excise tax. You can help us spread the message by taking action below:

  1. Contact your senators. Send an Operation Shout today asking your senators to oppose any changes the employer tax exclusion and to support a full repeal of the Cadillac/excise Tax. You can also call your senators at the numbers below.
  2. Tell your employer clients to take action. Your employer clients would be most directly impacted by the elimination or cap of the employer tax exclusion and are seeking a full repeal of the Cadillac/excise Tax. Tell them to take action here.
  3. Share your story. As a licensed insurance specialist who works closely with employers to help them offer and utilize employer-sponsored health insurance, stories about how the employer tax exclusion directly impacts your clients will demonstrate the value of the exclusion and the need to preserve it, as well as the need to fully repeal the Cadillac/excise Tax. We will share your stories with appropriate legislators and staff. You can share your story here.

Take Action today and tell your senators to preserve the employer-based system and permanently repeal the Cadillac/excise Tax!
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Don’t want to send an email? No problem, you can also reach your senators by phone:
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D) can be reached at (202) 224-2823.
Sen. Christopher Murphy (D) can be reached at (202) 224-4041.

This call to action is designed as an email message to your legislators. You are welcome to use the prepared text as talking points to call your legislators, or to expand on the prepared message to share your personal story on how this issue will impact you and your clients.

ACA Fee Moratorium and Self-Funding

acaWhen Congress delayed the Cadillac Tax until 2020, the same law placed a one-year moratorium on the annual fee the ACA imposes on health insurance carriers. While the fee does not have a direct impact on TPAs or self-funded plans, it does sometimes impact stop loss premiums. Since this fee applied to insurance carriers and not the majority of self-funded plan costs claims, some small group plans that moved to level funding may experience a slight cost increase in 2017. When the tax returns in 2018, the revenue targets are expected to increase. If the tax increases from its previous levels of 3% to 4%, the potential savings available to self-funded and level funded plans will increase as well.

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How New York’s canceling health coverage for 130,000 workers

Article written by Michael W. Ferguson, as seen in the New York Post

New York’s state legislators are thinking small — literally.

The state’s definition of “small business” expanded Jan. 1, thanks to legislation passed in 2013. Many firms that thought of themselves as medium-size are now legally considered “small.” One consequence: They’re barred from choosing self-insurance — a form of health coverage that allows employers to pay their employees’ medical bills directly.

State legislators must restore this vital health care option for these newly small businesses. If they don’t, firms may have to slash their benefits — or stop offering them altogether.

Firms that offer conventional health insurance pay monthly premiums to insurers to cover medical claims for their employees. Companies that self-insure, by contrast, pay the doctor when an employee goes in for a check-up or an operation.

That can save businesses big money. By one estimate, companies can cut their health care costs by up to 25 percent by self-insuring.

Self-insurance also enables employers to provide higher-quality care. Because they’re not bound to the generic health care options provided by insurers, they can customize coverage for their employees’ unique needs.

Continue reading

Cadillac Tax Delayed Until 2020

CadillacTaxWhen President Obama signed the new Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 into law in late December, he delayed both the Cadillac and Medical Device taxes by two years, from 2018 to 2020. The legislation also provided for the deductibility of the Cadillac Tax, which is an excise tax of 40% on the “excess benefit” of high cost employer-sponsored coverage, regardless of whether the health plan is fully insured or self-funded.

The cost thresholds associated with “high cost” coverage were initially indexed annually from a base value of $10,200 for individual coverage and $27,500 for other than self-only coverage, adjusted to reflect the age and gender composition of the employee population. The Cadillac Tax was originally intended to take effect in 2013, but in 2010, was postponed from 2013 to 2018. The Medical Device tax was originally projected to raise $29 billion over 10 years to help pay for Obamacare. While the delays were welcome news to employers and medical device makers alike, most are still hoping for outright repeals.

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The ACA: Repeals, Delays, Changes and Other Updates

Article is from Zack Pace, from Employee Benefit News (EBN)

Commentary: As you’ve no doubt noticed, the federal government made sweeping legislative and regulatory changes to the Affordable Care Act during the fourth quarter of 2015. During the last two weeks of December, I felt like I was drinking from a six-inch fire hose. How about you?

For 2016 planning purposes, I began making a list of the key items that have been repealed or delayed and those that we should continue to keep a keen eye on. With this list now complete, I thought I’d share.

Repealed provisions

  1. Free-choice vouchers. Remember those? They were repealed back in 2011.
  2. Form 1099 reporting. Remember how much added administrative work this provision would have created?
  3. The $2,000-deductible ceiling. This provision coupled with Repealed Provision No. 5 (below) was scheduled to create a perfect storm this year for employers with 51 to 100 employees.
  4. The automatic enrollment mandate. Reportedly, our elected representatives pressed for this provision’s repeal not because of its administrative infeasibility but because of the projected loss in tax revenue from increased salary reductions via Section 125 plans. Seriously.
  5. The mandatory expansion of small group to 100 employees. I wish I had a quarter from everyone that joked, “Hey, Zack – they named an ACA after you!” How thrilling.

Delayed provisions

  1. ACA nondiscrimination requirements. While these TBD rules were delayed indefinitely some time ago, some insiders expect finalization relatively soon. Sections 125 and 105(h) nondiscrimination rules remain alive and well.
  2. The Cadillac tax. This excise tax is delayed until 2020. Per industry insiders, it seems awfully likely that this tax will be repealed before then. We’ll see. For those employers that began a multiple-year incremental mitigation strategy (aka glide path), they’ll need to decide if that strategy ought to be put in moth balls for a couple of years. Keep in mind that many employers can likely keep this excise tax at bay until 2022 by simply ending the flexible spending account, making health savings account contributions post-tax and eliminating their richest medical plan. 2022 is six years from now. Who knows where we’ll be by then. When it comes to increased taxation on employer- sponsored health plans, the more immediate concern, apparently, is that Section 125 becomes a bargaining chip during the budget negotiations next year between Congress and the new administration.

Lingering provisions of keen importance

  1. Annually determining large-employer status. To determine status for 2016, ask your accountant to run Treasury’s formula to determine how many full-time employees plus full-time equivalents your firm averaged in the previous calendar year. Employers with 50 or more are generally subject to shared responsibility. Employers in most states with 51 or more are generally not subject to the fair health insurance premium rules (only fully insured plans are subject to these latter rules). Can anyone explain to me why they didn’t simply select 50 or 51 for both definitions?
  2. Employer shared responsibility. Didn’t we make this topic a little more complicated than it needed to be? It turns out that it’s relatively easy to eliminate this penalty risk by offering to all employees that work 30 hours or more a week a low-cost plan (relatively speaking) that meets minimum value and that has an employee contribution rate for single coverage that meets the federal poverty-level safe harbor (i.e., less than around $93 per month). We can offer this “ACA easy button” plan, continue offering the normative health plans employees prefer and call it a day. Of course, for those employers with seasonal and/or variable-hour employees, tracking complications remain.
  3. Eliminating opt-out credits. Under pending regulations, employers that offer cash to those employees that waive the health plan will find it harder to satisfy the affordability requirements of employer shared responsibility. See No. 5 in the below further reading list for more detail.
  4. ACA reporting. Also known as Form 1095-C/1094-C reporting. The topic du jour.
  5. The market reform rules. For example: elimination of pre-existing condition limitations, age 26 expansion, out-of-pocket limit ceiling, 100% coverage for preventive services (grandfathered plans are exempt from these latter three). If your health plan is fully insured, the insurer should have made these changes. If your plan is self-funded, the TPA should have. Either way, double-check.

To read this article on EBN.BENEFITNEWS.COM click here.

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PCORI Fee Rises to $2.17

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) just announced that the fee that supports the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) will increase from $2.08 to $2.17 per covered life, an increase of 4.3%.

The increase will apply to health plan years that end on or after Oct. 1, 2015 and before Oct. 1, 2016. Under the PCORI provision, all health insurers and self-insured major medical plans are required to pay the fee.

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