GOP’s Health Bill Could Undercut Some Coverage In Job-Based Insurance

Thanks to the new legislation passed by Congress health care is on the verge of changing as we know it. Check out this interesting article by Michelle Andrews from Kaiser Health News on how these changes to healthcare will affect Americans who get their healthcare through an employer.

This week, I answer questions about how the Republican proposal to overhaul the health law could affect job-based insurance and what the penalties for not having continuous coverage mean. Perhaps anticipating a spell of uninsurance, another reader wondered if people can rely on the emergency department for routine care.

Q: Will employer-based health care be affected by the new Republican plan?

The American Health Care Act that recently passed the House would fundamentally change the individual insurance market, and it could significantly alter coverage for people who get coverage through their employers too.

The bill would allow states to opt out of some of the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, including no longer requiring plans sold on the individual market to cover 10 “essential health benefits,” such as hospitalization, drugs and maternity care.

Small businesses (generally companies with 50 or fewer employees) in those states would also be affected by the change.

Plans offered by large employers have never been required to cover the essential health benefits, so the bill wouldn’t change their obligations. Many of them, however, provide comprehensive coverage that includes many of these benefits.

But here’s where it gets tricky. The ACA placed caps on how much consumers can be required to pay out-of-pocket in deductibles, copays and coinsurance every year, and they apply to most plans, including large employer plans. In 2017, the spending limit is $7,150 for an individual plan and $14,300 for family coverage. Yet there’s a catch: The spending limits apply only to services covered by the essential health benefits. Insurers could charge people any amount for services deemed nonessential by the states.

Similarly, the law prohibits insurers from imposing lifetime or annual dollar limits on services — but only if those services are related to the essential health benefits.

In addition, if any single state weakened its essential health benefits requirements, it could affect large employer plans in every state, analysts say. That’s because these employers, who often operate in multiple states, are allowed to pick which state’s definition of essential health benefits they want to use in determining what counts toward consumer spending caps and annual and lifetime coverage limits.

“If you eliminate [the federal essential health benefits] requirement you could see a lot of state variation, and there could be an incentive for companies that are looking to save money to pick a state” with skimpier requirements, said Sarah Lueck, senior policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Q: I keep hearing that nobody in the United States is ever refused medical care — that whether they can afford it or not a hospital can’t refuse them treatment. If this is the case, why couldn’t an uninsured person simply go to the front desk at the hospital and ask for treatment, which by law can’t be denied, such as, “I’m here for my annual physical, or for a screening colonoscopy”?

If you are having chest pains or you just sliced your hand open while carving a chicken, you can go to nearly any hospital with an emergency department, and — under the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) — the staff is obligated to conduct a medical exam to see if you need emergency care. If so, they must try to stabilize your condition, whether or not you have insurance.

The key word here is “emergency.” If you’re due for a colonoscopy to screen for cancer, unless you have symptoms such as severe pain or rectal bleeding, emergency department personnel wouldn’t likely order the exam, said Dr. Jesse Pines, a professor of emergency medicine and health policy at George Washington University, in Washington, D.C.

“It’s not the standard of care to do screening tests in the emergency department,” Pines said, noting in that situation the appropriate next step would be to refer you to a local gastroenterologist who could perform the exam.

Even though the law requires hospitals to evaluate anyone who comes in the door, being uninsured doesn’t let people off the hook financially. You’ll still likely get bills from the hospital and physicians for any care you receive, Pines said.

Q: The Republican proposal says people who don’t maintain “continuous coverage” would have to pay extra for their insurance. What does that mean? 

Under the bill passed by the House, people who have a break in their health insurance coverage of more than 63 days in a year would be hit with a 30 percent premium surcharge for a year after buying a new plan on the individual market.

In contrast, under the ACA’s “individual mandate,” people are required to have health insurance or pay a fine equal to the greater of 2.5 percent of their income or $695 per adult. They’re allowed a break of no more than two continuous months every year before the penalty kicks in for the months they were without coverage.

The continuous coverage requirement is the Republicans’ preferred strategy to encourage people to get health insurance. But some analysts have questioned how effective it would be. They point out that, whereas the ACA penalizes people for not having insurance on an ongoing basis, the AHCA penalty kicks in only when people try to buy coverage after a break. It could actually discourage healthy people from getting back into the market unless they’re sick.

In addition, the AHCA penalty, which is based on a plan’s premium, would likely have a greater impact on older people, whose premiums are relatively higher, and those with lower incomes, said Sara Collins, a vice president at the Commonwealth Fund, who authored an analysis of the impact of the penalties.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Andrews M. (2017 May 23). GOP's health bill could undercut some coverage in job-based insurance[Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://khn.org/news/gops-health-bill-could-undercut-some-coverage-in-job-based-insurance/


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Ear To The Door: 5 Things Being Weighed In Secret Health Bill Also Weigh It Down

With Congress passing the American Health Care Act a few weeks, the legislation now shifts to the Senate for its final approval. Take a look at this article by Julie Rovner from Kaiser Health News and find out where we are at on the healthcare repeal process and which aspects of the AHCA legislation the Senate is bound to change.

Anyone following the debate over the “repeal and replace” of the Affordable Care Act knows the 13 Republican senators writing the bill are meeting behind closed doors.

While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) continues to push for a vote before the July 4 Senate recess, Washington’s favorite parlor game has become guessing what is, or will be, in the Senate bill.

Spoiler: No one knows what the final Senate bill will look like — not even those writing it.

“It’s an iterative process,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) told Politico, adding that senators in the room are sending options to the Congressional Budget Office to try to figure out in general how much they would cost. Those conversations between senators and the CBO — common for lawmakers working on major, complex pieces of legislation — sometimes prompt members to press through and other times to change course.

Although specifics, to the extent there are any, have largely stayed secret, some of the policies under consideration have slipped out, and pressure points of the debate are fairly clear. Anything can happen, but here’s what we know so far:

1. Medicaid expansion

The Republicans are determined to roll back the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. The question is, how to do it. The ACA called for an expansion of the Medicaid program for those with low incomes to everyone who earns less than 133 percent of poverty (around $16,000 a year for an individual), with the federal government footing much of the bill. The Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the expansion was optional for states, but 31 have done so, providing new coverage to an estimated 14 million people.

The Republican bill passed by the House on May 4 would phase out the federal funding for those made eligible by the ACA over two years, beginning in 2020. But Republican moderates in the Senate want a much slower end to the additional federal aid. Several have suggested that they could accept a seven-year phaseout.

Keeping the federal expansion money flowing that long, however, would cut into the bill’s budget savings. That matters: In order to protect the Senate’s ability to pass the bill under budget rules that require only a simple majority rather than 60 votes, the bill’s savings must at least match those of the House version. Any extra money spent on Medicaid expansion would have to be cut elsewhere.

2. Medicaid caps

A related issue is whether and at what level to cap federal Medicaid spending. Medicaid currently covers more than 70 million low-income people. Medicaid covers half of all births and half of the nation’s bill for long-term care, including nursing home stays. Right now, the federal government matches whatever states spend at least 50-50, and provides more matching funds for less wealthy states.

The House bill would, for the first time, cap the amount the federal government provides to states for their Medicaid programs. The CBO estimated that the caps would put more of the financial burden for the program on states, who would respond by a combination of cutting payments to health care providers like doctors and hospitals, eliminating benefits for patients and restricting eligibility.

The Medicaid cap may or may not be included in the Senate bill, depending on whom you ask. However, sources with direct knowledge of the negotiations say the real sticking point is not whether or not to impose a cap — they want to do that. The hurdles: how to be fair to states that get less federal money and how fast the caps should rise.

Again, if the Senate proposal is more generous than the House’s version, it will be harder to meet the bill’s required budget targets.

3. Restrictions on abortion coverage and Planned Parenthood

The senators are actively considering two measures that would limit funding for abortions, though it is not clear if either would be allowed to remain in the bill according to the Senate’s rules. The Senate Parliamentarian, who must review the bill after the senators complete it but before it comes to the floor, will decide.

The House-passed bill would ban the use of federal tax credits to purchase private coverage that includes abortion as a benefit. This is a key demand for a large portion of the Republican base. But the Senate version of the bill must abide by strict rules that limit its content to provisions that directly impact the federal budget. In the past, abortion language in budget bills has been ruled out of order.

4. Reading between the lines

A related issue is whether House language to temporarily bar Planned Parenthood from participating in the Medicaid program will be allowed in the Senate.

While the Parliamentarian allowed identical language defunding Planned Parenthood to remain in a similar budget bill in 2015, it was not clear at the time that Planned Parenthood would have been the only provider affected by the language. Planned Parenthood backers say they will argue to the Parliamentarian that the budget impact of the language is “merely incidental” to the policy aim and therefore should not be allowed in the Senate bill.

5. Insurance market reforms

Senators are also struggling with provisions of the House-passed bill that would allow states to waive certain insurance requirements in the Affordable Care Act, including those laying out “essential” benefits that policies must cover, and those banning insurers from charging sicker people higher premiums. That language, as well as an amendment seeking to ensure more funding to help people with preexisting conditions, was instrumental in gaining enough votes for the bill to pass the House.

Eliminating insurance regulations imposed by the ACA are a top priority for conservatives. “Conservatives would like to clear the books of Obamacare’s most costly regulations and free the states to regulate their markets how they wish,” wrote Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who is one of the 13 senators negotiating the details of the bill, in an op-ed in May.

However, budget experts suggest that none of the insurance market provisions is likely to clear the Parliamentarian hurdle as being primarily budget-related.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Rovner J. (2017 June 16). Ear to the door: 5 things being weighed in secret health bill also weigh it down [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://khn.org/news/ear-to-the-door-5-things-being-weighed-in-secret-health-bill-also-weigh-it-down/


The Employer Mandate: Essential or Dispensable?

Have you wondered how the passing of the AHCA will impact employers? Check out this article by David Blumenthal, M.D and David Squires from Commonwealth Fund and see how employers will affect by the passing of the most recent healthcare legislation.

The Commonwealth Fund’s Sara Collins has blogged that, “Employers are at the heart of the U.S. health insurance system and their ongoing commitment to it will be critical to its success and viability over time.” The point is undeniable. More than 150 million Americans under the age of 65 get their coverage through the workplace, and employer-sponsored insurance remains critical to the success of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) coverage plans.

Some may therefore be surprised by the growing talk of repealing the ACA’s requirement that employers cover their employees. To unpack this issue, let’s take a look at the ACA provision itself, why it was enacted, and the potential upside and downside of repeal.

The Employer Mandate

The ACA section under discussion is often called an employer mandate, but that’s an oversimplification. The law says that employers with 50 or more employees have a choice. They can offer health insurance that meets minimum standards for affordability and coverage to employees working 30 or more hours a week. Or they can pay the federal government a penalty if at least one of their employees receives a federal subsidy for a private insurance plan sold through one of the new ACA insurance marketplaces.

You can call this a mandate. Or you can call it a requirement that businesses share responsibility for the costs of covering all Americans, either by helping to buy insurance directly for their own employees, or helping the federal government do so.

The language here matters. The concept of shared responsibility reflects a political calculation and a statement of values. It asserts that for the ACA to be fair and politically viable, all Americans have to do their part. All U.S. citizens are required to have health insurance, and many will have to pay a penalty if they go without it (the individual mandate). Employers must cover workers or help the government financially to do so. Taxpayers have to support the expansion in Medicaid eligibility and marketplace subsidies. Hospitals have to take cuts in Medicare payments, medical device makers need to accept additional taxes, and so on. The most successful American social programs—such as Social Security and Medicare—rely on this concept of shared responsibility.

The Rationale

Whatever you label it, the employer coverage requirement has several rationales beyond the concept of shared sacrifice. Policymakers want to deter employers who now provide coverage to  their employees from dumping workers into the marketplaces, either by dropping coverage completely or limiting benefits to the point where workers will chose to buy insurance elsewhere. The requirement also attempts to nudge employers who don’t cover employees into offering health insurance. And on the assumption that some businesses will chose to pay rather than offer coverage, the employer provision provides an important source of revenue to cover the ACA’s expenses: an estimated $139 billion over 10 years.

The Rationale for Repeal

Several arguments are fueling the repeal push. First, implementation will be administratively complex and burdensome. For example, employers will have to report many new details about their workers, including what coverage they have been offered and whether they have received coverage elsewhere.

Second, some economists are concerned that the employer requirements will distort hiring decisions, leading companies to bring on fewer low-income employees who might be eligible for subsidized coverage in the marketplaces. Firms with payrolls near 50 workers might hire fewer workers altogether. Economists also believe that if employers incur penalties for not offering coverage, workers might contribute to the costs of insurance through reduced wages. Other economists, however, believe these effects will be modest.

Third, modeling from RAND and the Urban Institute suggests that when fully implemented in 2016, the employer provisions will increase the number of insured Americans by only a few hundred thousand. The overwhelming proportion of U.S. employers already provides insurance to their employees, and would continue to do so without the penalties in the ACA, the analysts contend.

Concerns About Repeal

Supporters of the employer requirement posit that projections that employers would stay in the health insurance business without the ACA requirements are just that—projections. Balanced against employers’ past record of providing coverage is an increasing tendency for businesses to reduce the generosity of coverage. In fact, the law’s requirements that workplace coverage be affordable and meaningful may be as important as the requirement that employers offer coverage at all.

Eliminating the employer provisions would also leave a big hole in funding for the ACA. The likelihood that supporters and opponents could reach agreement on how to raise the missing cash seems low, especially given the recent history of the congressional effort to replace the Medicare physician payment formula known as the SGR. This year, a bipartisan consensus on policy crashed and burned when Republicans and Democrats could not agree on new sources of revenue to pay for the legislation.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, repealing the employer mandate would undermine the concept of shared responsibility and potentially add momentum—which could grow in a new Congress or under a new president—to the idea of eliminating the individual mandate as well. After all, why should individuals have to buy insurance when businesses don’t? Virtually all disinterested analysts agree that the individual mandate is critical to the stability of the new insurance marketplaces created under the ACA, and to reducing the number of uninsured Americans.

 Proceed with Caution

The full effects of repealing the employer provisions of the ACA remain speculative. A repeal seems unlikely in the short term, in part, because a repeal effort would open the floodgates to partisan warfare over undoing the ACA in its entirety, or to changing other elements of the law that could have more far-ranging consequences.

However, if serious bipartisan discussion of ACA improvement becomes possible, expect to see a repeal of employer coverage provisions front and center on the legislative agenda.  Under these circumstances, lawmakers should still proceed with caution. It may be wise to experiment with implementing the employer provisions and to reassess their comparative benefits and costs  at a later date. The philosophy of shared responsibility is foundational to the law’s political viability, and should not be discarded without compelling evidence that the employer requirements are not essential to the ACA’s success.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Blumenthal D., Squires D. (2017 June 4). The employer mandate: essential or dispensable [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/blog/2014/jun/the-employer-mandate


HSAs on the Rise, but Employees Need to Know More About Them

Are your employees aware of the many benefits and features associated with HSAs? Check out this great article by Marlene Y. Satter from Benefits Pro on why it is important employees are knowledgeable about HSAs, so they can prepare for their health care expenses while planning for retirement.

According to Fidelity Investments, health savings accounts — and the assets within them — are rising quickly, as both employers and employees try to find ways to pay for health care. Still, a number of the features of HSAs are still underutilized.

While Fidelity says that assets in its HSAs rose 50 percent in the past year, now topping $2 billion, and the number of individual account holders rose 46 percent during the same period to 657,000, it points out more work still needs to be done on showing employees the advantages of such accounts.

Since it’s estimated that couples retiring today could need $260,000 — perhaps even more — to cover their health care costs during retirement, the need for a way to save just for health care expenses, aside from other retirement expenses, is becoming more urgent.

HSAs offer a tax-advantaged way to set aside more money than a retirement account alone provides — and people who have both tend to save more overall, with 2016 statistics indicating that people who had both defined contribution and HSA accounts saved on average 10.7 percent of their annual income in the retirement account. Those with just a DC account saved on average 8.2 percent in it.

People are mostly satisfied with HSAs — 80 percent say they are, while 76 percent are satisfied with the ease of using it HSA for medical expenses, 77 percent with the quality of their health care coverage and 77 percent with how the plan helps them manage their health care costs.

But that doesn’t mean they’ve got all the ins and outs figured out yet; 39 percent mistakenly believe that they’ll lose unspent HSA contributions at the end of the year. Yet unlike contributions to health flexible spending accounts (FSA), unspent contributions to HSAs roll over from year to year.

Still, employees are learning that HSAs can provide them a means of saving that’s not restricted to cash. While it’s still not common, more people are putting HSA money into investments that can then grow toward covering longer-term health expenses, but employers, says Fidelity, can do more to educate workers on such an option. Nationally, only 15 percent of all HSA assets are invested outside of cash.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Satter M. (2017 May 26). HSAs on the rise, but employees need to know more about them [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/05/26/hsas-on-the-rise-but-employees-need-to-know-more-a?ref=hp-news


GOP Health Care Bill Would Cut About $765 Billion In Taxes Over 10 Years

The passing of the American Health Care Act means there will be a new taxes associated with healthcare. Find out in this article by Scott Horsley and see how this change in legislation will impact you.

The health care bill passed by the House on Thursday is a win for the wealthy, in terms of taxes.

While the Affordable Care Act raised taxes on the rich to subsidize health insurance for the poor, the repeal-and-replace bill passed by House Republicans would redistribute hundreds of billions of dollars in the opposite direction. It would deliver a sizable tax cut to the rich, while reducing government subsidies for Medicaid recipients and those buying coverage on the individual market.

Tax hikes reversed

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is funded in part through higher taxes on the rich, including a 3.8 percent tax on investment income and a 0.9 percent payroll tax. Both of these taxes apply only to people earning more than $200,000 (or couples making more than $250,000). The GOP replacement bill would eliminate these taxes, although the latest version leaves the payroll tax in place through 2023.

The House bill would also repeal the tax penalty for those who fail to buy insurance as well as various taxes on insurance companies, drug companies and medical device makers. The GOP bill also delays the so-called "Cadillac tax" on high-end insurance policies from 2020 to 2025.

All told, the bill would cut taxes by about $765 billion over the next decade.

The lion's share of the tax savings would go to the wealthy and very wealthy. According to the Tax Policy Center, the top 20 percent of earners would receive 64 percent of the savings and the top 1 percent of earners (those making more than $772,000 in 2022) would receive 40 percent of the savings.

Help for the poor reduced

Over time, the GOP bill would limit the federal contribution to Medicaid, while shifting control of the program to states. Depending on what happens to costs, states may be forced to provide skimpier coverage, reduce their Medicaid rolls, or both. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that an earlier version of the bill would leave about 14 million fewer people covered by Medicaid by 2026. (The House voted on the current bill without an updated CBO report.)

CBO also anticipated fewer people would buy insurance through the individual market. With no tax penalty for going without coverage, some people would voluntarily stop buying insurance. Others would find coverage prohibitively expensive, as a result of changing rules governing insurance pricing and subsidies.

The GOP bill would allow insurance companies to charge older customers up to five times more than younger customers — up from a maximum 3-to-1 ratio under the current health law. The maximum subsidy for older customers in the GOP plan, however, is only twice what is offered to the young.

The bill also allows insurance companies to offer more bare-bones policies. As a result, young, healthy people could find more affordable coverage options. But older, sicker people would likely have to pay more.

In addition, because the subsidies offered in the Republican plan don't vary with local insurance prices the way subsidies do in Obamacare, residents of high-cost, rural areas would also suffer. That could include a large number of Trump voters.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Horsley (2017 May 4). GOP health care bill would cut about $765 billion in taxes over 10 years [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.npr.org/2017/05/04/526923181/gop-health-care-bill-would-cut-about-765-billion-in-taxes-over-10-years


Insurer Participation on ACA Marketplaces, 2014-2017

Have you wondered how the health insurance marketplace has fared since the passing of the ACA. Here is a really good article by Ashley Semanskee and Cynthia Cox highlighting the impact the ACA has had on insurance marketplaces across the country.

Since the Affordable Care Act health insurance marketplaces opened in 2014, there have been a number of changes in insurance participation as companies entered and exited states and also changed their footprint within states. Our earlier analyses of insurer participation and some notable company exits can be found here.

In 2014, there were an average of 5.0 insurers participating in each state’s ACA marketplace, ranging from 1 company in New Hampshire and West Virginia to 16 companies in New York. 2015 saw a net increase in insurer participation, with an average of 6.0 insurers per state, ranging from 1 in West Virginia to 16 in New York. In 2016, insurer participation changed in a number of states due to a combination of some new entrants and the failure of a number of CO-OP plans. In 2016, the average number of companies per state was 5.6, ranging from 1 in Wyoming to 16 in Texas and Wisconsin.

In 2017, insurance company losses led to a number of high profile exits from the market. The average number of companies per state in 2017 was 4.3, ranging from 1 company in Alabama, Alaska, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Wyoming to 15 companies in Wisconsin. In 2017, 58% of enrollees (living in about 30% of counties) had a choice of three or more insurers, compared to 85% of enrollees (living in about 63% of counties) in 2016.

Insurer participation varies greatly within states, and rural areas tend to have fewer insurers. On average, metro-area counties have 2.5 insurers participating in 2017, compared to 2.0 insurers in non-metro counties. In 2017, 87% of enrollees lived in metro counties.

There are a number of areas in the country with just one exchange insurer. In 2017, about 21% of enrollees (living in 33% of counties) have access to just one insurer on the marketplace (up from 2% of enrollees living in 7% of counties in 2016). Often, when there is only one insurer participating on the exchange, that company is a Blue Cross Blue Shield or Anthem plan. Before the ACA, many state individual markets were often dominated by Blue Cross Blue Shield plans.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Semanskee A., Cox C. (2017 June 1). Insurer participation on ACA marketplaces, 2014-2017 [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.kff.org/health-reform/issue-brief/insurer-participation-on-aca-marketplaces-2014-2017/


Gaps in Coverage Among People With Pre-Existing Conditions

The passing of the American Care Act (ACA) in 2010 brought many changes to the healthcare marketplace. One of the most important changes that this legislation brought was coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. This legislation allowed people with pre-existing conditions to gain access to health care without facing higher premiums. But with the passing of the AHCA the market for pre-existing conditions is on the verge of changing. Check out this great article from Kaiser Family Foundation on how the AHCA will effect people with pre-conditions.

The American Health Care Act (AHCA), which has passed the House of Representatives, contains a controversial provision that would allow states to waive community rating in the individual insurance market. In this brief we estimate the number of people with pre-existing conditions who might be affected by such a policy.

How the State Waiver Provision Works

Under the provision, insurers in states with community rating waivers could vary premiums by health status for enrollees who have had a gap in insurance of 63 or more consecutive days in the last year. The higher (or lower) premiums due to health status would apply for an entire plan year (or the remainder of the year in case of people signing up during a special enrollment period), at which point enrollees would be eligible for a community-rated premium unrelated to their health.

States waiving community rating would be required to set up a mechanism to subsidize the cost of high-risk enrollees, such as a high-risk pool, or participate in a reinsurance arrangement that makes payments directly to insurers. States are not required to set up an alternative source of coverage for people who face higher premiums based on their health.

The bill makes $100 billion available to all states for a variety of purposes, including high-risk pools, reinsurance programs, and cost-sharing subsidies. An additional $15 billion is made available for a federal invisible risk-sharing program, which would be similar to a reinsurance arrangement. Another $15 billion is earmarked for spending on maternal and newborn care, mental health, and substance abuse services for the year 2020.  The AHCA also allocates $8 billion over five years to states that implement community rating waivers; these resources can be used to help reduce premiums or pay out-of-pocket medical expenses for people rated based on their health status.

Premiums varied significantly based on health status in the individual market before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) prohibited that practice beginning in 2014. Insurers in nearly all states were also permitted to decline coverage to people with pre-existing conditions seeking individual market insurance. We estimate that 27% of non-elderly adults have a condition that would have led to a decline in coverage in the pre-ACA market. While insurers would have to offer insurance to everyone under the AHCA, people with declinable pre-existing conditions would likely face very large premium surcharges under an AHCA waiver, since insurers were unwilling to cover them at any price before the ACA.

How Many People Might be Affected by Community Rating Waivers?

The effect of a community rating waiver would depend crucially on how many people with pre-existing conditions have gaps in insurance that would leave them vulnerable to higher premiums.

Using the most recent National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), we estimate that 27.4 million non-elderly adults nationally had a gap in coverage of at least several months in 2015. This includes 6.3 million people (or 23% of everyone with at least a several-month gap) who have a pre-existing condition that would have led to a denial of insurance in the pre-ACA individual market and would lead to a substantial premium surcharge under AHCA community rating waiver.1

Among the 21.1 million people who experienced a gap in coverage and did not have a declinable pre-existing condition, some also had pre-existing conditions (such as asthma, depression, or hypertension) that would not have resulted in an automatic denial by individual market health insurers pre-ACA but that nonetheless could also result in a premium surcharge.

In many cases, people uninsured for several months or more in a year have been without coverage for a long period of time. In other cases, people lose insurance and experience a gap as a result of loss of a job with health benefits or a decrease in income that makes coverage less affordable. Young people may have a gap in coverage as they turn 26 and are unable to stay on their parents’ insurance policies. Medicaid beneficiaries can also have a gap if their incomes rise and they are no longer eligible for the program.

Through expanded Medicaid eligibility and refundable tax credits that subsidized premium in insurance marketplaces, the ACA has substantially reduced coverage gaps. In 2013, before the major provisions of the ACA went into effect, 38.6 million people had a gap of several months, including 8.7 million with declinable pre-existing conditions.

Some people with a gap will ultimately regain coverage through an employer-based plan or Medicaid, and would not be subject to premium surcharges based on their health. However, anyone who has been uninsured for 63 days or more who tries to buy individual market insurance in a state with a community rating waiver would be subject to medical underwriting and potential premium surcharges based on their health.

Uncertainty Around the Estimate

There are a variety reasons why our estimates might understate or overstate number of people with pre-existing conditions who could be subject to premium surcharges under the AHCA.

People with health conditions would have a strong incentive under an AHCA waiver to maintain continuous coverage in order to avoid being charged premiums that could potentially price them out of the insurance market altogether. The question is how many would be able to do so, given the fact that the premium tax credits provided for in the AHCA would be 36% lower on average for marketplace enrollees than under the ACA and would grow more slowly over time. In 2013, before tax credits for individual insurance were available and the ACA’s Medicaid expansion took effect, the number of people with pre-existing conditions who experienced a gap in coverage was 41% higher. Among people with individual market insurance in 2015, we estimate that 3.8 million adults (representing 25% of all adult enrollees) had a pre-existing condition that would have led to a decline before the ACA. These individuals would not be subject to premium surcharges under AHCA community rating waivers, so long as they maintain continuous coverage.  Because individual market subsidies would be significantly reduced under the AHCA, these individuals could face added challenges remaining continuously covered.

About 49% of people with pre-existing conditions who had a gap in coverage in 2015 had incomes at or below 138% of the poverty level, and some of them could be eligible for Medicaid (depending on whether their state has expanded eligibility under the ACA and what eligibility rules are in states that have not expanded). They would not face any coverage restrictions associated with their health status in Medicaid. However, under the AHCA enhanced federal funding for expanding Medicaid would be repealed, and federal matching funds would be capped. The Congressional Budget Office projects that 14 million fewer people would be enrolled in Medicaid by 2026. So, while some people we identify as having a coverage gap would be eligible for Medicaid under the AHCA, many more people currently enrolled in Medicaid would lose that coverage under the AHCA and be uninsured. They would be eligible for premium tax credits, but the AHCA’s subsidies do not scale by income so individual market insurance would likely be unaffordable for people who are poor, including those with pre-existing conditions.

There is also significant uncertainty surrounding how many states would seek to waive community rating under the AHCA. Some states might do so to roll back what they consider to be excessive regulation of the insurance market initiated by the ACA and preserved under the AHCA. Other states might come under pressure to implement waivers from insurers who believe the market would be unstable, given that the AHCA repeals the ACA’s individual mandate. What states decide to do may ultimately have the greatest effect on how many people with pre-existing conditions face potentially unaffordable insurance premiums.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Levitt L., Damico A., Claxton G., Cox C., Pollitz K. (2017 May 17). Gaps in coverage among people with pre-existing conditions [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.kff.org/health-reform/issue-brief/gaps-in-coverage-among-people-with-pre-existing-conditions/?utm_campaign=KFF-2017-May-Pre-Ex-AHCA-Coverage-Gap&utm_medium=email&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-927vhm-poW6B4a5Qht6venQyS6-j9mRL1ecYqhgHd3bWp8UT-yBNineOJVRUwxXkUvJ3TalIEo_JBE9QE5o-n_pzrwyA&_hsmi=52007627&utm_content=52007627&utm_source=hs_email&hsCtaTracking=148c8fd6-8ba2-4f02-a508-45b17365a226|3ae33023-7ef1-44a9-a84c-b2a8d055e6bd


3 HSA Facts Employers Need to Know

With the passing of the AHCA, HSAs are on the verge of changing as we know it. Take a look at this informative article from Benefits Pro about what changes to HSAs means for employers by Whitney Richard Johnson.

Health Savings Accounts offer employers a way to help employees with health care costs without being as involved as they might be with, say, a Flexible Saving Account. But what are some other advantages?

And what are employers' responsibilities? Although employers will want to research more indepth about HSAs, here is a quick look at some basic HSA questions and answers:

#1: What are the advantages to an employer of offering an HDHP and HSA combination?

The benefits of offering employees an HDHP and HSA vary dramatically depending upon the circumstances. A major strength of offering an HSA program is flexibility.

Employers can be very generous and fully fund an HSA and also pay for the HDHP coverage. Alternatively, employers can also use the flexibility of the HSA to allow for the employer to reduce its involvement in benefits and put more responsibility onto the employee.

Generally, employers switch to HDHPs and HSAs to save money on the health insurance premiums (or to reduce the rate of increase) and to embrace the concept of consumer driven healthcare. The list below elaborates on strengths of HDHPs and HSAs.

Lower Premiums. HDHPs, with their high deductibles, are usually less expensive than traditional insurance.

Consumer-driven health care. Many employers believe in the concept of consumer-driven healthcare. If an employer makes employees responsible for the relatively high deductible, the employees may be more careful and inquisitive into their health care purchases. Combining this with an HSA where employees can keep unused money increases employees’ desire to use health care dollars as if they were their own money – because it is their own money.

Lower administration burden. Given the individual account nature of HSAs, much of the administrative burden for HSAs is switched from the employer (or paid third-party administrator) to the employee and the HSA custodian as compared to health FSAs and HRAs. This increased burden on the employee comes with significant perks: more control over how and when the money is spent, increased privacy, and better ability to add money to the HSA outside of the employer.

Tax deductibility at employee level. The ability of employees to make their own HSA contributions directly and still get a tax deduction is advantageous. Although it is better for employees to contribute through an employer, an employee can make contributions directly. An employer may not offer pretax payroll deferral or it may be too late for an employee to defer. For example, an employee that decides to maximize his prior year HSA contribution in April as he is filing his taxes can still do so by making an HSA contribution directly with the HSA custodian.

HSA eligibility. Becoming eligible for an HSA is a benefit that also stands on its own. Although not all employees will embrace HSAs, savvy employees that understand the benefits of HSAs will value a program that enables them to have an HSA.

#2: What are the employer responsibilities regarding employee HSAs?

If an employer offers pretax employer contributions, then the employer has the following responsibilities:

Make comparable contributions. If the employer is making a pretax employer contribution (nonpayroll deferral), it must do so on a comparable basis.

Maintain Section 125 plan for payroll deferral. If the employer allows pretax payroll deferral, then the employer must adopt and maintain a Section 125 plan that provides for HSA deferrals. This includes collecting employee deferral elections, sending the deferred amount directly to the HSA custodian, and accounting for the money for tax-reporting purposes.

HSA eligibility and contribution limits. Employers should work with employees to determine eligibility for an HSA and the employee’s HSA contribution limit. Although it is legally the employee’s responsibility to determine his or her eligibility and contribution limit, a mistake in these areas generally involves work by both the employer and the employee to correct. Mistakes are best avoided by upfront communication. Also, the employer does have some responsibility not to exceed the known federal limits. An employer may not know if a particular employee is ineligible for an HSA due to other health coverage but an employer is expected to know the current HSA limits for the year and not exceed those limits.

Tax reporting. The employer needs to properly complete employees’ W-2 forms and its own tax-filing regarding HSAs (HSA employer contributions are generally deductible as a benefit under IRC Section 106).

Business owner rules. Business owners generally are not treated as employees and employers need to review HSA contributions for business owners for proper tax reporting.

Detailed rules. There are various detailed rules that fall within the responsibility of the employer that are too numerous to list here but include items such as: (1) holding employer contributions for an employee that fails to open an HSA, (2) not being able to “recoup” money mistakenly made to an employee’s HSA, (3) actually making employer HSA contributions into employees HSAs on a timely basis, and (4) other detailed rules.

#3: How do employers switching from traditional insurance to HDHPs explain the change to employees?

Although there is no certain answer to this question, a straight-forward and honest approach to the change will likely work best.

Changing from traditional insurance to a high deductible plan with an HSA can be significant because employees likely face a higher deductible (although traditional health plan deductibles have been increasing to the point they are close to HDHPs).

Often the largest obstacle to the change is that employees feel something is being taken away from them. An employer that can show that the actual dollars contributed by the employer are level, or increased, versus the previous year helps a lot – especially if the employer makes a substantial HSA contribution for employees.

If the employer is making the change to reduce its health care expenses, then the employer will have to explain and justify that change to employees to get employees’ support for the change (e.g., the business is in a tough spot due to a difficult economy, etc.).

Depending on the facts, the change will likely be an improvement for some employees and HSA eligibility provides benefits to all employees. Some specific benefits include the following:

Saving money. The HDHP is generally significantly less expensive. Depending upon the circumstances, this fact often saves not only the employer money but also the employee. Highlighting the savings will help convince employees the change is positive. Although an actual reduction of the employee’s portion of the premium expense may be unlikely given increasing health insurance premiums, explaining that without the change the employee’s portion of the premium would have increased by more will help reduce tension.

Tax savings. The HSA enables tax savings. For some employees these tax savings are significant.

Control. HSAs give individuals control over their money and accordingly their doctor and treatment choices.

Flexibility. An HSA is very flexible and allows for some employees to put aside a large amount and get a large tax benefit. For those that prefer not to do so, the HSA allows that as well. Plus, even better, the HSA allows employees to change their mind mid-year. If an employee believes they are not going to need any medical services, the employee needs to contribute only a minimum deposit to an HSA. If it turns out that the employee does incur some medical treatment, the employee can contribute at that time and still get the tax benefits. Employees are often frustrated by HSA rules because of some confusion, but when explained that the rules are very flexible they appreciate HSAs more.

Distribution reasons. HSAs allow for more distribution reasons than FSAs: namely to pay for health insurance premiums if unemployed and receiving COBRA, to pay for some health insurance premiums after age sixty-five, to use for any purpose penalty-free after age sixty-five, to carry forward a large balance, and more.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Johnson W. (2017 May 11). 3 HSA facts employers need to know [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/05/11/3-hsa-facts-employers-need-to-know?kw=3+HSA+facts+employers+need+to+know&et=editorial&bu=BenefitsPRO&cn=20170514&src=EMC-Email_editorial&pt=Benefits+Weekend+PRO&page_all=1


Analysis: 6.3 Million People with Pre-Existing Conditions Would Be at Risk for Higher Premiums under the House’s Health Bill

Take a look at this interesting article from Kaiser Family Foundation about how people with pre-existing conditions will face higher premiums on their health insurance due to the passing of the AHCA.

A new Kaiser Family Foundation analysis estimates that 6.3 million people — 23 percent of 27.4 million non-elderly adults with a gap of several months in insurance coverage in 2015 – could potentially face higher premiums under the House’s American Health Care Act (AHCA), due to pre-existing health conditions.

The bill, which passed the House earlier this month, allows states to waive community rating in the individual insurance market. Insurers in states with such waivers could vary premiums by health status for an entire plan year for enrollees with a gap in insurance of 63 or more consecutive days in the past year.

People with pre-existing conditions would likely face large premium surcharges under an AHCA waiver, according to the analysis, as insurers would be unable to decline coverage based on a person’s medical history, a practice that was permitted in nearly all states before it was prohibited by the Affordable Care Act in 2014. An earlier analysis from the Foundation estimated that 27 percent of non-elderly adults have a condition that would have led to a coverage refusal in the pre-ACA market.

The new analysis also identifies a second group of people who could be at risk of higher premiums: those with pre-existing conditions now buying their own insurance. It finds that an estimated 3.8 million adults, or about 25 percent of all adult enrollees in the 2015 individual insurance market, had a pre-existing condition that could subject them to higher premiums under an AHCA community rating waiver if they don’t maintain continuous coverage.

The AHCA allocates $8 billion over five years to states with community rating waivers, resources that can be used to help reduce premiums or pay out-of-pocket medical expenses for people rated based on their health status. However, the House bill does not require states to set up an alternate source of coverage for people who face higher premiums based on their health. It is uncertain how many states would waive community rating under the AHCA.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Author (Date). Analysis: 6.3 million people with pre-existing conditions would be at risk for higher premiums under the house's health bill [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.kff.org/health-reform/press-release/analysis-6-3-million-people-with-pre-existing-conditions-would-be-at-risk-for-higher-premiums-under-the-houses-health-bill/?utm_campaign=KFF-2016-The-Latest&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=52062246&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-_VsXEz5DH19yz9a0M6hl4QfqXSaABYhLLADcvZymz30D-94xqDepLSsy4AGwu-LbtONEahQvbbjampBln3kkIlrAgSlw&_hsmi=52062246


More Employers View HSAs as Part of Retirement Strategy

Did you know that more employers are starting to use health savings accounts as a tool for retirement? Find out more from this interesting read from Employee Benefits Advisor on how employers are utilizing HSAs in their retirement program by Paula Aven Gladych.

The health savings account market is continuing its massive growth — as well as its increasing importance to the retirement industry.

According to a survey conducted by the Plan Sponsor Council of America, more than 75% of plan sponsors “view the HSA as part of their retirement benefits strategy.”

Nearly 60% of the respondents believe HSAs should replace flexible spending accounts, and nearly three-fourths of employers think that HSAs should be open to all employees, not just those enrolled in a high-deductible health plan, according to the survey. The PSCA received 255 responses to its survey, with 181 of plan sponsors saying they sponsor an HSA for their employees.

HSAs are medical savings accounts that employees and employers can use to pay for qualifying healthcare expenses, now and into the future. It is widely acknowledged that healthcare expenses are one of the largest expenses people face in retirement, so this is one more tool individuals can use to save for their futures.

Made possible by the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, the accounts allow employees to set money aside pre-tax. Any money that isn’t spent down in a given year can be invested, just like a retirement plan. That money can be used to pay for current and future healthcare expenses.

HSAEnrollment in employer-sponsored HSA/high-deductible plans more than doubled from 5% in 2005 to 11% in 2015, but in spite of that, 6.2 million of the 22.5 million people eligible to participate in an HSA did not contribute to it, according to the PSCA survey.

In 2016, the PSCA created an HSA committee to focus on health savings accounts and their impact on employee retirement readiness and to evaluate and improve their integration with defined contribution retirement plans.

“Absent legislative action that would curtail HSA tax preferences, HSA accounts are here to stay,” says PSCA Executive Director Tony Verheyen.

According to survey respondents, about 80% of employees are eligible to participate in an employer-sponsored HSA plan, with an average account balance of $3,161. Forty percent of employers said that fewer than 25% of their participants use up their entire HSA balance each year and 35% of plans said that 26-50% of their participants use their entire balance every year.

“So many employers participating in the survey do perceive the HSA to be a vehicle for employees to accumulate savings,” the report found.

Two-thirds of employers who sponsor a health savings account program for employees say they contribute a set dollar amount to each account based on the high-deductible health plan coverage tier an employee has chosen. More than 80% of the employers who sponsor an HSA say they contribute some money to the plan. Forty percent of plans say they front load contributions at the start of the year, while 30% contribute some amount every payday.

More than half of those surveyed said they cover the cost of HSA maintenance fees for active employees and 6% said they pay them for terminated employees. Only 21% of surveyed employers expressed concern about the fiduciary liability of sponsoring an HSA-high-deductible health plan.

The Plan Sponsor Council of America is made up of employee benefit plan sponsors who work together to help improve and expand upon the employer-sponsored retirement plan system.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Gladych P. (2017 May 9). More employers view HSAs as part of retirement strategy [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/more-employers-view-hsas-as-part-of-retirement-strategy