More than Half of Uninsured People Eligible for Marketplace Insurance Could Pay Less for Health Plan than Individual Mandate Penalty

Things are not looking up for the uninsured. Pay less and reach out to your health insurance professionals today. Want more facts? Check out this blog article from Kaiser Family Foundation.


new Kaiser Family Foundation analysis finds that more than half (54% or 5.9 million) of the 10.7 million people who are uninsured and eligible to purchase an Affordable Care Act marketplace plan in 2018 could pay less in premiums for health insurance than they would owe as an individual mandate tax penalty for lacking coverage.

Within that 5.8 million, about 4.5 million (42% of the total) could obtain a bronze-level plan at no cost in 2018, after taking income-related premium tax credits into account, the analysis finds.

Most people without insurance who are eligible to buy marketplace coverage qualify for subsidies in the form of tax credits to help pay premiums for marketplace plans (8.3 million out of 10.7 million). Among those eligible for premium subsidies, the analysis finds that 70 percent could pay less in premiums than what they’d owe as a tax penalty for lacking coverage, with 54 percent able to purchase a bronze plan at no cost and 16 percent contributing less to their health insurance premium than the tax penalty they owe.

Among the 2.4 million uninsured, marketplace-eligible people who do not qualify for a premium subsidy, 2 percent would be able to pay less for marketplace insurance than they’d owe for their 2018 penalty, the analysis finds.

The Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate requires that most people have health coverage or be subject to a tax penalty unless they qualify for certain exemptions. The individual mandate is still in effect, though Congress may consider repealing it as part of tax legislation.

Consumers can compare their estimated 2018 individual mandate penalty with the cost of marketplace insurance in their area with KFF’s new Individual Mandate Penalty Calculator.

The deadline for ACA open enrollment in most states is Dec. 15, 2017.

 

You can read the original article here.

Source:

Kaiser Family Foundation (9 November 2017). "ANALYSIS: More than Half of Uninsured People Eligible for Marketplace Insurance Could Pay Less for Health Plan than Individual Mandate Penalty" [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.kff.org/health-reform/press-release/analysis-more-than-half-of-uninsured-people-eligible-for-marketplace-insurance-could-pay-less-for-health-plan-than-individual-mandate-penalty/


An Early Look at 2018 Premium Changes and Insurer Participation on ACA Exchanges


Each year insurers submit filings to state regulators detailing their plans to participate on the Affordable Care Act marketplaces (also called exchanges). These filings include information on the premiums insurers plan to charge in the coming year and which areas they plan to serve. Each state or the federal government reviews premiums to ensure they are accurate and justifiable before the rate goes into effect, though regulators have varying types of authority and states make varying amounts of information public.

In this analysis, we look at preliminary premiums and insurer participation in the 20 states and the District of Columbia where publicly available rate filings include enough detail to be able to show the premium for a specific enrollee. As in previous years, we focus on the second-lowest cost silver plan in the major city in each state. This plan serves as the benchmark for premium tax credits. Enrollees must also enroll in a silver plan to obtain reduced cost sharing tied to their incomes. About 71% of marketplace enrollees are in silver plans this year.

States are still reviewing premiums and participation, so the data in this report are preliminary and could very well change. Rates and participation are not locked in until late summer or early fall (insurers must sign an annual contract by September 27 in states using Healthcare.gov).

Insurers in this market face new uncertainty in the current political environment and in some cases have factored this into their premium increases for the coming year. Specifically, insurers have been unsure whether the individual mandate (which brings down premiums by compelling healthy people to buy coverage) will be repealed by Congress or to what degree it will be enforced by the Trump Administration. Additionally, insurers in this market do not know whether the Trump Administration will continue to make payments to compensate insurers for cost-sharing reductions (CSRs), which are the subject of a lawsuit, or whether Congress will appropriate these funds. (More on these subsidies can be found here).

The vast majority of insurers included in this analysis cite uncertainty surrounding the individual mandate and/or cost sharing subsidies as a factor in their 2018 rates filings. Some insurers explicitly factor this uncertainty into their initial premium requests, while other companies say if they do not receive more clarity or if cost-sharing payments stop, they plan to either refile with higher premiums or withdraw from the market. We include a table in this analysis highlighting examples of companies that have factored this uncertainty into their initial premium increases and specified the amount by which the uncertainty is increasing rates.

Changes in the Second-Lowest Cost Silver Premium

The second-lowest silver plan is one of the most popular plan choices on the marketplace and is also the benchmark that is used to determine the amount of financial assistance individuals and families receive. The table below shows these premiums for a major city in each state with available data. (Our analyses from 201720162015, and 2014 examined changes in premiums and participation in these states and major cities since the exchange markets opened nearly four years ago.)

Across these 21 major cities, based on preliminary 2018 rate filings, the second-lowest silver premium for a 40-year-old non-smoker will range from $244 in Detroit, MI to $631 in Wilmington, DE, before accounting for the tax credit that most enrollees in this market receive.

Of these major cities, the steepest proposed increases in the unsubsidized second-lowest silver plan are in Wilmington, DE (up 49% from $423 to $631 per month for a 40-year-old non-smoker), Albuquerque, NM (up 34% from $258 to $346), and Richmond, VA (up 33% from $296 to $394). Meanwhile, unsubsidized premiums for the second-lowest silver premiums will decrease in Providence, RI (down -5% from $261 to $248 for a 40-year-old non-smoker) and remain essentially unchanged in Burlington, VT ($492 to $491).

As discussed in more detail below, this year’s preliminary rate requests are subject to much more uncertainty than in past years. An additional factor driving rates this year is the return of the ACA’s health insurance tax, which adds an estimated 2 to 3 percentage points to premiums.

Most enrollees in the marketplaces (84%) receive a tax credit to lower their premium and these enrollees will be protected from premium increases, though they may need to switch plans in order to take full advantage of the tax credit. The premium tax credit caps how much a person or family must spend on the benchmark plan in their area at a certain percentage of their income. For this reason, in 2017, a single adult making $30,000 per year would pay about $207 per month for the second-lowest-silver plan, regardless of the sticker price (unless their unsubsidized premium was less than $207 per month). If this person enrolls in the second lowest-cost silver plan is in 2018 as well, he or she will pay slightly less (the after-tax credit payment for a similar person in 2018 will be $201 per month, or a decrease of 2.9%). Enrollees can use their tax credits in any marketplace plan. So, because tax credits rise with the increase in benchmark premiums, enrollees are cushioned from the effect of premium hikes.

Table 1: Monthly Silver Premiums and Financial Assistance for a 40 Year Old Non-Smoker Making $30,000 / Year
State  Major City 2nd Lowest Cost Silver
Before Tax Credit
2nd Lowest Cost Silver
After Tax Credit
Amount of Premium Tax Credit
2017 2018 % Change
from 2017
2017 2018 % Change
from 2017
2017 2018 % Change
from 2017
California* Los Angeles $258 $289 12% $207 $201 -3% $51 $88 71%
Colorado Denver $313 $352 12% $207 $201 -3% $106 $150 42%
Connecticut Hartford $369 $417 13% $207 $201 -3% $162 $216 33%
DC Washington $298 $324 9% $207 $201 -3% $91 $122 35%
Delaware Wilmington $423 $631 49% $207 $201 -3% $216 $430 99%
Georgia Atlanta $286 $308 7% $207 $201 -3% $79 $106 34%
Idaho Boise $348 $442 27% $207 $201 -3% $141 $241 70%
Indiana Indianapolis $286 $337 18% $207 $201 -3% $79 $135 72%
Maine Portland $341 $397 17% $207 $201 -3% $134 $196 46%
Maryland Baltimore $313 $392 25% $207 $201 -3% $106 $191 81%
Michigan* Detroit $237 $244 3% $207 $201 -3% $29 $42 44%
Minnesota** Minneapolis $366 $383 5% $207 $201 -3% $159 $181 14%
New Mexico Albuquerque $258 $346 34% $207 $201 -3% $51 $144 183%
New York*** New York City $456 $504 10% $207 $201 -3% $249 $303 21%
Oregon Portland $312 $350 12% $207 $201 -3% $105 $149 42%
Pennsylvania Philadelphia $418 $515 23% $207 $201 -3% $211 $313 49%
Rhode Island Providence $261 $248 -5% $207 $201 -3% $54 $47 -13%
Tennessee Nashville $419 $507 21% $207 $201 -3% $212 $306 44%
Vermont Burlington $492 $491 0% $207 $201 -3% $285 $289 2%
Virginia Richmond $296 $394 33% $207 $201 -3% $89 $193 117%
Washington Seattle $238 $306 29% $207 $201 -3% $31 $105 239%
NOTES: *The 2018 premiums for MI and CA reflect the assumption that CSR payments will continue. **The 2018 premium for MN assumes no reinsurance. ***Empire has filed to offer on the individual market in New York in 2018 but has not made its rates public.
SOURCE:  Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of premium data from Healthcare.gov and insurer rate filings to state regulators.

Looking back to 2014, when changes to the individual insurance market under the ACA first took effect, reveals a wide range of premium changes. In many of these cities, average annual premium growth over the 2014-2018 period has been modest, and in two cites (Indianapolis and Providence), benchmark premiums have actually decreased. In other cities, premiums have risen rapidly over the period, though in some cases this rapid growth was because premiums were initially quite low (e.g., in Nashville and Minneapolis).

Table 2: Monthly Benchmark Silver Premiums
for a 40 Year Old Non-Smoker, 2014-2018
State Major City 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 Average Annual % Change from 2014 to 2018 Average Annual % Change After Tax Credit, $30K Income
California Los Angeles $255 $257 $245 $258 $289 3% -1%
Colorado Denver $250 $211 $278 $313 $352 9%  -1%
Connecticut Hartford $328 $312 $318 $369 $417 6%  -1%
DC Washington $242 $242 $244 $298 $324 8%  -1%
Delaware Wilmington $289 $301 $356 $423 $631 22%  -1%
Georgia Atlanta $250 $255 $254 $286 $308 5%  -1%
Idaho Boise $231 $210 $273 $348 $442 18%  -1%
Indiana Indianapolis $341 $329 $298 $286 $337 0%  -1%
Maine Portland $295 $282 $288 $341 $397 8%  -1%
Maryland Baltimore $228 $235 $249 $313 $392 15%  -1%
Michigan* Detroit $224 $230 $226 $237 $244 2%  -1%
Minnesota** Minneapolis $162 $183 $235 $366 $383 24%  6%
New Mexico Albuquerque $194 $171 $186 $258 $346 16%  1%
New York*** New York City $365 $372 $369 $456 $504 8%  -1%
Oregon Portland $213 $213 $261 $312 $350 13%  -1%
Pennsylvania Philadelphia $300 $268 $276 $418 $515 14%  -1%
Rhode Island Providence $293 $260 $263 $261 $248 -4%  -1%
Tennessee Nashville $188 $203 $281 $419 $507 28%  2%
Vermont Burlington $413 $436 $468 $492 $491 4%  -1%
Virginia Richmond $253 $260 $276 $296 $394 12%  -1%
Washington Seattle $281 $254 $227 $238 $306 2% -1%
NOTES: *The 2018 premiums for MI and CA reflect the assumption that CSR payments will continue. **The 2018 premium for MN assumes no reinsurance. ***Empire has filed to offer on the individual market in New York in 2018 but has not made its rates public.
SOURCE:  Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of premium data from Healthcare.gov and insurer rate filings to state regulators.

Changes in Insurer Participation

Across these 20 states and DC, an average of 4.6 insurers have indicated they intend to participate in 2018, compared to an average of 5.1 insurers per state in 2017, 6.2 in 2016, 6.7 in 2015, and 5.7 in 2014. In states using Healthcare.gov, insurers have until September 27 to sign final contracts to participate in 2018. Insurers often do not serve an entire state, so the number of choices available to consumers in a particular area will typically be less than these figures.

Table 3: Total Number of Insurers by State, 2014 – 2018
State Total Number of Issuers in the Marketplace
2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 (Preliminary)
California 11 10 12 11 11
Colorado 10 10 8 7 7
Connecticut 3 4 4 2 2
DC 3 3 2 2 2
Delaware 2 2 2 2 1 (Aetna exiting)
Georgia 5 9 8 5 4 (Humana exiting)
Idaho 4 5 5 5 4 (Cambia exiting)
Indiana 4 8 7 4 2 (Anthem and MDwise exiting)
Maine 2 3 3 3 3
Maryland 4 5 5 3 3 (Cigna exiting, Evergreen1 filed to reenter)
Michigan 9 13 11 9 8 (Humana exiting)
Minnesota 5 4 4 4 4
New Mexico 4 5 4 4 4
New York 16 16 15 14 14
Oregon 11 10 10 6 5 (Atrio exiting)
Pennsylvania 7 8 7 5 5
Rhode Island 2 3 3 2 2
Tennessee 4 5 4 3 3 (Humana exiting, Oscar entering)
Vermont 2 2 2 2 2
Virginia 5 6 7 8 6 (UnitedHealthcare and Aetna exiting)
Washington 7 9 8 6 5 (Community Health Plan of WA exiting)
Average (20 states + DC) 5.7 6.7 6.2 5.1 4.6
NOTES: Insurers are grouped by parent company or group affiliation, which we obtained from HHS Medical Loss Ratio public use files and supplemented with additional research.
1The number of preliminary 2018 insurers in Maryland includes Evergreen, which submitted a filing but has been placed in receivership.
SOURCE:  Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of premium data from Healthcare.gov and insurer rate filings to state regulators.

Uncertainty Surrounding ACA Provisions

Insurers in the individual market must submit filings with their premiums and service areas to states and/or the federal government for review well in advance of these rates going into effect. States vary in their deadlines and processes, but generally, insurers were required to submit their initial rate requests in May or June of 2017 for products that go into effect in January 2018. Once insurers set their premiums for 2018 and sign final contacts at the end of September, those premiums are locked in for the entire calendar year and insurers do not have an opportunity to revise their rates or service areas until the following year.

Meanwhile, over the course of this summer, the debate in Congress over repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act has carried on as insurers set their rates for next year. Both the House and Senate bills included provisions that would have made significant changes to the law effective in 2018 or even retroactively, including repeal of the individual mandate penalty. Additionally, the Trump administration has sent mixed signals over whether it would continue to enforce the individual mandate or make payments to insurers to reimburse them for the cost of providing legally required cost-sharing assistance to low-income enrollees.

Because this policy uncertainty is far outside the norm, insurers are making varying assumptions about how this uncertainty will play out and affect premiums. Some states have attempted to standardize the process by requesting rate submissions under multiple scenarios, while other states appear to have left the decision up to each individual company. There is no standard place in the filings where insurers across all states can explain this type of assumption, and some states do not post complete filings to allow the public to examine which assumptions insurers are making.

In the 20 states and DC with detailed rate filings included in the previous sections of this analysis, the vast majority of insurers cite policy uncertainty in their rate filings. Some insurers make an explicit assumption about the individual mandate not being enforced or cost-sharing subsidies not being paid and specify how much each assumption contributes to the overall rate increase. Other insurers state that if they do not get clarity by the time final rates must be submitted – which has now been delayed to September 5 for the federal marketplace – they may either increase their premiums further or withdraw from the market.

Table 4 highlights examples of insurers that have explicitly factored into their premiums an assumption that either the individual mandate will not be enforced or cost-sharing subsidy payments will not be made and have specified the degree to which that assumption is influencing their initial rate request. As mentioned above, the vast majority of companies in states with detailed rate filings have included some language around the uncertainty, so it is likely that more companies will revise their premiums to reflect uncertainty in the absence of clear answers from Congress or the Administration.

Insurers assuming the individual mandate will not be enforced have factored in to their rate increases an additional 1.2% to 20%. Those assuming cost-sharing subsidy payments will not continue and factoring this into their initial rate requests have applied an additional rate increase ranging from 2% to 23%. Because cost-sharing reductions are only available in silver plans, insurers may seek to raise premiums just in those plans if the payments end. We estimate that silver premiums would have to increase by 19% on average to compensate for the loss of CSR payments, with the amount varying substantially by state.

Several insurers assumed in their initial rate filing that payment of the cost-sharing subsidies would continue, but indicated the degree to which rates would increase if they are discontinued. These insurers are not included in the Table 4. If CSR payments end or there is continued uncertainty, these insurers say they would raise their rates an additional 3% to 10% beyond their initial request – or ranging from 9% to 38% in cases when the rate increases would only apply to silver plans. Some states have instructed insurers to submit two sets of rates to account for the possibility of discontinued cost-sharing subsidies. In California, for example, a surcharge would be added to silver plans on the exchange, increasing proposed rates an additional 12.4% on average across all 11 carriers, ranging from 8% to 27%.

Table 4: Examples of Preliminary Insurer Assumptions Regarding Individual Mandate Enforcement and
Cost-Sharing Reduction (CSR) Payments
State Insurer Average Rate Increase  Requested Individual Mandate Assumption CSR Payments Assumption Requested Rate Increase Due to Mandate or CSR Uncertainty
CT ConnectiCare 17.5% Weakly enforced1 Not specified Mandate: 2.4%
DE Highmark BCBSD 33.6% Not enforced Not paid Mandate and CSR: 12.8% combined impact
GA Alliant Health Plans 34.5% Not enforced Not paid Mandate: 5.0%
CSR: Unspecified
ID Mountain Health CO-OP 25.0% Not specified Not paid CSR: 17.0%
ID PacificSource Health Plans 45.6% Not specified Not paid CSR: 23.2%
ID SelectHealth 45.0% Not specified Not paid CSR: 20.0%
MD CareFirst BlueChoice 45.6% Not enforced Potentially not paid Mandate: 20.0%
ME Harvard PilgrimHealth Care 39.7% Weakly enforced Potentially not paid Mandate: 15.9%
MI BCBS of MI 26.9% Weakly enforced Potentially not paid (two rate submissions) Mandate: 5.0%
MI Blue Care Network of MI 13.8% Weakly enforced Potentially not paid (two rate submissions) Mandate: 5.0%
MI Molina Healthcare of MI 19.3% Weakly enforced Potentially not paid (two rate submissions) Mandate: 9.5%
NM CHRISTUS Health Plan 49.2% Not enforced Potentially not paid Mandate: 9.0%, combined impact of individual mandate non-enforcement and reduced advertising and outreach
NM Molina Healthcare of NM 21.2% Weakly enforced Paid Mandate: 11.0%
NM New Mexico Health Connections 32.8% Not enforced Potentially not paid Mandate: 20.0%
OR* BridgeSpan 17.2% Weakly enforced Potentially not paid Mandate: 11.0%
OR* Moda Health 13.1% Not enforced Potentially not paid Mandate: 1.2%
OR* Providence Health Plan 20.7% Not enforced Potentially not paid Mandate: 9.7%, largely due to individual mandate non-enforcement
TN BCBS of TN 21.4% Not enforced Not paid Mandate: 7.0%
CSR:  14.0%
TN Cigna 42.1% Weakly enforced Not paid CSR: 14.1%
TN Oscar Insurance  NA (New to state) Not enforced Not paid Mandate: 0%, despite non-enforcement
CSR: 17.0%, applied only to silver plans
VA CareFirst BlueChoice 21.5% Not enforced Potentially not paid Mandate: 20.0%
VA CareFirst GHMSI 54.3% Not enforced Potentially not paid Mandate: 20.0%
WA LifeWise Health Plan of Washington 21.6% Weakly enforced Not paid Mandate: 5.2%
CSR: 2.3%
WA Premera Blue Cross 27.7% Weakly enforced Not paid Mandate: 4.0%
CSR: 3.1%
WA Molina Healthcare of WA 38.5% Weakly enforced Paid Mandate: 5.4%
NOTES: The CSR assumption “Potentially not paid” refers to insurers that filed initial rates assuming CSR payments are made and indicated that uncertainty over CSR funding would change their initial rate requests. In Michigan, insurers were instructed to submit a second set of filings showing rate increases without CSR payments; the rates shown above assume continued CSR payments. *The Oregon Division of Financial Regulation reviewed insurer filings and advised adjustment of the impact of individual mandate uncertainty to between 2.4% and 5.1%. Although rates have since been finalized, the increases shown here are based on initial insurer requests. 1Connecticare assumes a public perception that the mandate will not be enforced.
SOURCE:  Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of premium data from Healthcare.gov and insurer rate filings to state regulators.

Discussion

A number of insurers have requested double-digit premium increases for 2018. Based on initial filings, the change in benchmark silver premiums will likely range from -5% to 49% across these 21 major cities. These rates are still being reviewed by regulators and may change.

In the past, requested premiums have been similar, if not equal to, the rates insurers ultimately charge. This year, because of the uncertainty insurers face over whether the individual mandate will be enforced or cost-sharing subsidy payments will be made, some companies have included an additional rate increase in their initial rate requests, while other companies have said they may revise their premiums late in the process. It is therefore quite possible that the requested rates in this analysis will change between now and open enrollment.

Insurers attempting to price their plans and determine which states and counties they will service next year face a great deal of uncertainty. They must soon sign contracts locking in their premiums for the entire year of 2018, yet Congress or the Administration could make significant changes in the coming months to the law – or its implementation – that could lead to significant losses if companies have not appropriately priced for these changes. Insurers vary in the assumptions they make regarding the individual mandate and cost-sharing subsidies and the degree to which they are factoring this uncertainty into their rate requests.

Because most enrollees on the exchange receive subsidies, they will generally be protected from premium increases. Ultimately, most of the burden of higher premiums on exchanges falls on taxpayers. Middle and upper-middle income people purchasing their own coverage off-exchange, however, are not protected by subsidies and will pay the full premium increase, switch to a lower level plan, or drop their coverage. Although the individual market on average has been stabilizing, the concern remains that another year of steep premium increases could cause healthy people (particularly those buying off-exchange) to drop their coverage, potentially leading to further rate hikes or insurer exits.

Methods

Data were collected from health insurer rate filing submitted to state regulators. These submissions are publicly available for the states we analyzed. Most rate information is available in the form of a SERFF filing (System for Electronic Rate and Form Filing) that includes a base rate and other factors that build up to an individual rate. In states where filings were unavailable, we gathered data from tables released by state insurance departments. Premium data are current as of August 7, 2017; however, filings in most states are still preliminary and will likely change before open enrollment. All premiums in this analysis are at the rating area level, and some plans may not be available in all cities or counties within the rating area. Rating areas are typically groups of neighboring counties, so a major city in the area was chosen for identification purposes.


The IRS Is Still Enforcing The Individual Mandate, Despite What Many Taxpayers Believe

Did you know that there are many people who still don't believe that they will be hit by tax penalty if they do not have health insurance? Here is an informative article by Timothy Jost from Health Affairs on why everyone should be keeping up with their health insurance in-order to avoid a tax penalty by the IRS.

There has been considerable speculation since President Trump’s Inauguration Day Affordable Care Act Executive Order as to whether the Internal Revenue Service is in fact enforcing the individual and employer mandates. The IRS website has insisted that the mandates are still in force, despite the Executive Order and despite the fact that the IRS decided not to implement for 2016 tax filings a program rejecting “silent returns” that did not indicate compliance with individual mandate requirements.

There is evidence, however, that many taxpayers do not believe it. An April report from the Treasury Inspector General for Taxpayer Services found that as of March 31, a third fewer taxpayers were paying the penalty than had been the case a year earlier. More importantly, insurers seem to believe that the IRS is not enforcing the mandate, or at least that taxpayers do not believe the IRS is enforcing the mandate, and are raising their rates for 2018 to account for the deteriorating of the risk pool that nonenforcement of the mandate will cause.

It is of note, therefore, that Robert Sheen at the ACA Times has identified several letters from the IRS reaffirming that it is still in fact enforcing the individual, and employer, mandates.

One is a letter reportedly sent in April by the IRS General Counsel to Congressman Bill Huizenga (R-MI) in response to an inquiry as to whether the IRS could waive the employer mandate with respect to a particular employer. The IRS replied that there was no provision in the ACA for waiver of the mandate penalty when it applied and that: “The Executive Order does not change the law; the legislative provisions of the ACA are still in force until changed by the Congress, and taxpayers remain required to follow the law and pay what they may owe.”

In a second letter in June, responding to an individual who had written to President Trump, the IRS similarly responded:

The Executive Order does not change the law; the legislative provisions of the ACA are still in force until changed by the Congress, and taxpayers remain required to follow the law, including the requirement to have minimum essential coverage for each month, qualify for a coverage exemption for the month, or make a shared responsibility payment.

Of course, whether taxpayers believe it, and whether insurers believe taxpayers believe it, is another question.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Jost T. (2017 August 21). The IRS is still enforcing the individual mandate, despite what many taxpayers believe [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://healthaffairs.org/blog/2017/08/21/the-irs-is-still-enforcing-the-individual-mandate-despite-what-many-taxpayers-believe/


Open Enrollment Tips Under Health Care Reform

Originally posted September 6, 2013 on http://www.thestreet.com

This year's open enrollment season for selecting workplace benefits comes just before some of the biggest changes of health care reform go into effect.

Never before has it been more important to pay attention as you choose a health plan for you and your family.

"You really need to do your homework this year," says Carol Taylor, an employee benefit adviser with D & S Agency Inc. in Roanoke, Va.

Here are 5 tips for open enrollment this fall.

1. Understand the health care reform individual mandate: You must have coverage.

Starting in 2014, federal law will require virtually everyone to have health insurance or face a tax penalty. So if your employer doesn't offer health insurance for next year or your company's health plan doesn't meet certain minimum standards, you'll need to shop for health insurance on your own. Your employer must let you know by Oct. 1 whether its health plan meets "minimum standards," says Taylor, a member of the National Association of Health Underwriters National Legislative Council.

To meet the minimum standards under health reform, employers must offer coverage at the "bronze level," which is one of the four levels of coverage defined under health reform provisions. The other three are silver, gold and platinum. They are based on actuarial value, which measures the amount of financial protection the policy offers, or the percentage of health costs a plan would pay for an average person. For a bronze plan, the insurance would cover 60 percent of all health care costs for an average person. Enrollees, on average, would be responsible for paying 40 percent of the costs.

If you're shopping for an individual health plan, you can buy one from an insurance company directly or through your state's new health insurance marketplace. The online health insurance marketplaces, sometimes called exchanges, are scheduled to open for business Oct. 1. Coverage can begin Jan. 1.

If you're not eligible for coverage through an employer or your employer's plan doesn't meet government standards, then you might qualify for a tax credit to save money on premiums when you buy a marketplace plan. People who earn up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level -- that's $94,200 for a family of four in 2013 -- will be eligible for premium subsidies in the form of tax credits. People who earn up to 250 percent of the federal poverty level will be eligible for lower deductibles and copayments.

2. Don't assume your family will qualify to save money in the new marketplaces.

Think you can get a better deal in the new marketplace than what your employer is offering? Maybe not. If you and your family have access to affordable employer-sponsored health insurance that meets minimum standards, then you and your dependents are not eligible for premium tax credits or help with cost-sharing - which includes aid in paying deductibles, copayments or co-insurance -- in the new marketplaces. You can shop there, but you'll pay full price.

"Affordable" means you pay no more than 9.5 percent of your household income toward the coverage for yourself. The amount you pay for your dependents to be covered on the employer-sponsored plan isn't factored into the equation. So even if you have to pay a bundle to keep your dependents on the employer plan, they're still not eligible for subsidies in the marketplace if the portion you pay to cover yourself is deemed affordable and they have access to the employer plan.

That could put a lot of moderate-income families with a sole breadwinner in a financial bind, says Mindy Anderson-Wallis, president of Employee Benefit Solutions of Indiana in Lafayette, Ind.

3. Compare benefits and health insurance plan networks.

Check out the provider networks of the plans you're offered to make sure your doctors and preferred hospital system are included, especially if you have a serious or chronic condition and are undergoing treatment. Given all the standards that must be met, one way health plans may cut costs is to cut the provider networks, Taylor warns.

You pay substantially more out of pocket to see providers outside the network with a preferred provider organization (PPO) plan. Except in special circumstances, you typically pay for the full cost of services for providers outside the network with a health maintenance organization (HMO) plan.

4. Understand that your employer doesn't have to offer coverage in 2014, and it won't have to offer coverage to your spouse.

Starting in 2015, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will require employers with at least 50 workers to provide affordable health insurance for workers and their dependents or pay a penalty. The so-called employer mandate was supposed to go into effect in 2014, but the Obama administration delayed implementation for a year.

Still, most employers are gearing up for the mandate, and there's one tricky technicality you should know. The federal government will define dependents as children, not spouses. So even when the employer mandate goes into effect, your workplace won't have to offer coverage to your spouse.

Nobody knows yet how this will play out, but Anderson-Wallis says she doesn't think the definition of "dependent" will have much impact.

"I don't think we'll see large employers not continue to cover spouses," she says. "Benefits are seen as a way to attract and retain employees."

If your spouse isn't eligible for employer-sponsored coverage, then he or she will qualify for a tax credit to save money on a health plan in the new marketplace if your household income is less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level.

5. Crunch the numbers and pick the health insurance plan with the best value.

Compare the out-of-pocket costs of each health plan if your employer offers a choice of plans. Your costs include:

  • Deductible.
  • Doctor visits, urgent care and emergency room copayments.
  • Co-insurance -- the percentage the health plan pays after you satisfy the deductible.
  • Prescription drug copayments or co-insurance.
  • Your portion of the premium.

Consider how often you go to the doctor, the medicines you take and what services you might need in the next year. Run some scenarios to see how much each health plan would cost, and choose one that meets your unique needs.

"Don't just roll the dice without calculating," Anderson-Wallis says.


9 items to tackle ahead of the Oct. 1 deadline

Originally posted September 6, 2013 by Dan Cook on http://www.benefitspro.com

Enrolling employees for the 2014 company health plan will put plan managers to a test like they’ve never seen before. Those that haven’t already immersed themselves in the details are going to be working some very late nights in the next couple of weeks.

John Haslinger, vice president for strategic advisory services at ADP, helped BenefitsPro.com compile a list of the essentials that must be executed in order to comply with the law and avoid sanctions.

Haslinger strongly advises that companies take these requirements seriously. He said the government’s decision to delay the corporate plan sanctions piece of the PPACA until 2015 doesn’t let anyone off the hook as far as meeting all the other requirements by Jan. 1. And many items must be completed by Oct. 1.

Here, then, are nine items you need to check off your 2014 checklist to stay out of the PPACA’s woodshed.

1. Notice of coverage or exchange notification: It’s up to employers to notify every employee, covered by a company health plan or not, of the health care options available to them through the insurance exchanges created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. This notification must be in an employee’s hands no later than Oct. 1. Employers hired after Oct. 1 have to be notified within 14 days.

Suggestion:  If you haven’t started this process, hire a third-party administrator with knowledge of the process to do it for you.

2. The Transitional Reinsurance Fee: This is the $63-per-covered-employee fee that plan sponsors and insurers must pay. The money goes to fund insurance for high-risk individuals. Employers and insurers have to report their enrollment numbers to the feds by Nov. 15. You’ll get an invoice back in a month, if all goes as planned, and the bill will come due a month later.

Suggestion: Set aside a good chunk of dough now to cover the cost.

3. Essential health benefits: This section of the PPACA requires non-grandfathered health plans to cover 10 essential health benefits as follows:

(1) ambulatory patient services; (2) emergency services; (3) hospitalization; (4) maternity and newborn care; (5) mental health and substance use disorder services including behavioral health treatment; (6) prescription drugs; (7) rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices; (8) laboratory services;(9) preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management; and (10) pediatric services, including oral and vision care.

For newly hired full-time employees who come on board after Jan. 1, coverage must be made available no longer than 90 days after hire.

Suggestion: State EHBs may vary, so make sure you know the requirements where you live.

4. Defining and counting your eligible full-time employees: The PPACA has redefined full-time employees for purposes of healthcare coverage. Now, employers must offer coverage to anyone who works an average of 30 hours a week. Calculating the 30 hours can be tricky, so you need to know the details. For instance, hours an employee is paid to work aren’t the only ones you count. You need to include the hours you pay someone not to work, such as vacation time, and hours of unpaid leave, such as jury duty. Having a good fix on who your eligible employees will be come Jan. 1 is critical to meeting the requirements of the law. To provide good data to the feds when they ask for it in 2015, employers will have to start tracking hours beginning this Oct. 1.

Suggestion: If you have put this exercise off because of the delay for sanctions until 2015, start counting now. You’ll need data from 10/1/13. Just because you don’t face sanctions doesn’t mean it isn’t essential to have a handle on this number.

5. 90-day waiting period: Under the PPACA, a group health plan or health insurance issuer offering group health insurance coverage must offer health coverage to new employees within 90 days of their hiring. No more “we’ll get you covered if you survive six months here.”

Suggestion: You might want to test potential hires out as contractors to make sure they’re a fit before you’re committed to coverage after 90 days.

6. Preventive services must be offered without cost-sharing: This requires group health plans to cover recommended preventive services without charging a deductible or co-pay/coinsurance. Grandfathered plans are generally excluded from complying with this provision. Among these services are immunization, well-woman visits, screening for gestational diabetes, screening for sexually transmitted diseases, well baby visits, and others.

Suggestion: If your benefits package includes a wellness program, you’ve got more assignments to complete before Oct.1. The idea behind these new rules is that all employees, regardless of their physical condition, should be able to meet the incentives built into wellness programs. Among the requirements:

7. Reasonable accommodations: Some employees, for various reasons, cannot meet the requirements established by wellness programs, so there must be options available for them built into the system.

8. The program must be designed to promote health or prevent disease: Wellness program goals must be tied to direct health benefits. Also, the goals established must not be “overly burdensome.”

9. Rewards must be available to all similarly situated employees: Again, because employees present a range of medical conditions, including some that may thwart them from achieving a reward, the conditions present in a given workplace have to be considered when designing the incentives and goals. Notice must be given to these employees of the options available to them.

Suggestion: Have a wellness program professional review your program to make sure that it is fair to all, truly promotes better health and includes incentives that any employee making a reasonable effort can hope to enjoy.


Employees say companies have yet to communicate benefit changes

Originally posted August 27, 2013 by Andrea Davis on  http://ebn.benefitnews.com

The October 1 deadline for employers to notify employees of their health coverage options is looming yet the majority of employees say their company has yet to communicate any changes, according to a survey released this morning by Aflac.

Sixty-nine percent of employees surveyed say their employer hasn’t communicated changes coming to their benefits package due to health care reform, despite the October 1 deadline.

In a separate Aflac survey, meanwhile, only 9% of companies indicate they are very prepared to implement required changes to their business based on the health care reform law at this time. Some employers (41%) believe more gaps in coverage will be created and 69% believe costs to employees will increase as a result of health care reform.

“At the heart of this issue is the fact that many workers will be blindsided this open enrollment season because we know they already struggle with understanding their insurance policies today, and in covering the high out-of-pocket costs from gaps in their current coverage,” says Michael Zuna, Aflac’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer.

Other statistics from the open enrollment survey of employees include:

  • 74% of workers sometimes or never understand everything that is covered by their insurance policy today.
  • 37% of workers think it will be more difficult to understand everything in their health care policy with the changes dictated by health care reform.
  • 28% of employees are confused, worried or simply unsure about the change their employer is making to their health care coverage or benefits options due to health care reform.
  • 60% of workers have not begun to educate themselves about coming changes to their benefits package due to health care reform.

 


PPACA struggles to meet make-or-break deadline

Originally posted by David Morgan on http://www.reuters.com

(Reuters) - With time running out, U.S. officials are struggling to cope with the task of launching the new online health insurance exchanges at the heart of President Barack Obama's signature health reforms by an October 1 deadline.

The White House, and federal agencies including the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), must ensure that working marketplaces open for enrollment in all 50 states in less than 80 days, and are responding to mounting pressure by concentrating on three essential areas that will determine whether the most critical phase of PPACA succeeds or fails.

"The administration right now is in a triage mode. Seriously, they do not have the resources to implement all of the provisions on time," Washington and Lee University professor Timothy Jost, a healthcare reform expert and advocate, told an oversight panel in the U.S. House of Representatives last week.

Current and former administration officials, independent experts andbusiness representatives say the three priorities are the creation of an online portal that will make it easy for consumers to compare insurance plans and enroll in coverage; the capacity to effectively process and deliver government subsidies that help consumers pay for the insurance; and retention of the law's individual mandate, which requires nearly all Americans to have health insurance when Obama's healthcare reform law comes into full force in 2014.

Measures deemed less essential, such as making larger employers provide health insurance to their full-time workers next year or face fines, and requiring exchanges to verify the health insurance and income status of applicants, have already been postponed or scaled back.

"The closer you get to the actual launch, the more you focus on what is essential versus what could be second-order issues," said a former administration official. "That concentrates the mind in a different kind of way, and that's what's happening here."

But the risk of failure in the form of major delays is palpable, given the administration's limited staff and financial resources, as well as the stubborn political opposition of Republicans, who have denied new money for the effort in Congress and prevented dozens of states from cooperating with initiatives that offer subsidized health coverage to millions of lower income uninsured people.

Any further delay could help Republicans make PPACA's troubles a focus of their campaign in next year's congressional midterm elections and in the 2016 presidential race.

HHS denies that its strategy has changed and insists that implementation continues to meet the milestones laid out by planners 18 months ago.

"All of the systems are exactly where we want them to be today. They will be ready to perform fully on October 1," said Mike Hash, director of the HHS Office of Health Reform.

White House officials acknowledge the approach of the open enrollment deadline has put a greater emphasis on priorities. They describe the strategy as a "smart, adaptive policy" and assert that delayed or scaled-back regulations demonstrate better policy decisions or flexibility with stakeholders, rather than a need to minimize distractions.

No Margin for Error

Advocates point out that the reform, formally titled the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and informally known as Obamacare, constitutes the most sweeping healthcare legislation since the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, large successful government programs for the elderly and the low income that also faced fierce political opposition when they were created in 1965. Both required years of work after their launch to refine implementation.

The administration has already delayed or scaled back at least half a dozen health reform measures since last year. These include regulations involving star quality ratings for insurance company plans, the choice of insurance plans for small-business employees and a requirement that state Medicaid agencies notify individuals of their eligibility for federal assistance.

Other efforts that could still be delayed include deadlines for some health insurers to get their plans certified by HHS as well as requirements for how the insurance exchanges provide customer service.

House Speaker John Boehner and other House Republican leaders, warning of a "train wreck", have called on Obama to defer an essential task: the individual mandate, which requires people to have insurance coverage in 2014 or face penalties that begin modestly, but rise sharply by 2016.

But experts say it is the other essential tasks - establishing the high-tech capabilities necessary to process government insurance subsidies and create online shopping and enrollment for consumers - that could be most vulnerable with such a compressed timetable.

"The biggest hurdle is to get the systems up and running," said one health insurance official. "Nothing's happened so far that prevents you from being up and running on October 1. But there's virtually no margin for error."

The administration is working according to an ambitious schedule for testing a technology hub and its ability to transfer consumer data on health coverage, income, tax credits and other topics between federal agencies, insurance companies and states. The hub is already exchanging data between the necessary agencies.

A report from Georgetown University's Center on Health Insurance Reforms says state-run exchanges are on track for a successful October 1 launch and have exceeded federal minimum requirements in some cases.

Failure to have adequate systems in place by September 4, when HHS is due to give insurers final notice about which health plans are qualified to be sold on 34 state exchanges run by the federal government, could delay open enrollment by days or weeks but still allow the law's core reform provisions to take effect on January 1, experts said.

Insurers will have several days in August to review plan data as it would be presented to prospective enrollees in side-by-side comparisons online. The administration also needs to test the system with a wider audience than the IT experts working on the exchanges to make sure they are consumer-friendly.

Michael Marchand, spokesman for Washington's Health Benefit Exchange, said the state's online marketplace had conducted frequent tests with the federal data hub, which had worked well so far. But any last-minute changes to the government's requirements to its operations could throw a wrench into the IT system, he said.

"If you start adding or removing lines of code it could bring the whole thing down," he said. "As you add or take away pieces, you have to re-test from the beginning."

(Additional reporting by Patrick Temple-West in Washington and Sharon Begley in New York; Editing by Michele Gershberg, Martin Howell)

 

 


The Long Arm Of The U.S. Healthcare Ruling

Source: http://www.insurancebroadcasting.com

The Supreme Court ruling to uphold the core of President Barack Obama's 2010 healthcare law has wide-ranging political and economic implications.

Here is a snap analysis of what it means for Americans, healthcare providers, insurers, the law and the presidential campaign.

How does the ruling affect the average American?

* Working families with annual household incomes up to nearly $90,000 will be able to purchase private insurance through new state insurance markets at prices subsidized according to income level, beginning in 2014. But people with household incomes of around $29,000, who qualify for coverage under the Medicaid government health insurance program for the poor, may have to wait for their respective state governments to decide whether they will join the program's huge expansion. Preventive healthcare measures including mammograms and other cancer screenings will be available without deductibles or co-pays. Adult children up to age 26 can remain on their parents' health insurance plans. Senior citizens can expect to continue receiving discounts on prescription drugs aimed at closing the Medicare coverage gap known as the "doughnut hole." Health insurers will continue to pay rebates on premiums not sufficiently targeted at healthcare services. Beginning in 2014, insurers will no longer be able to deny coverage to adults with pre-existing medical conditions and would be required to stop or curb discriminatory pricing based on gender, age and health status.

What about healthcare providers?

* The ruling removes one cloud of uncertainty over the future of healthcare reform and would help the administration's efforts to implement it fully by January 1, 2014, when the law is scheduled to go into effect. Under the decision, physicians and hospitals continue to move away from the traditional fee-for-service healthcare business model and toward more efficient systems that coordinate care. For healthcare providers, the affirmation represents millions of potential new patients, either through private plans or the government's Medicaid program for the poor. Some, however, would be under added pressure to enact more savings, which could cut into revenues. The administration still faces some fairly tall hurdles, such as establishing regulated health insurance markets in all 50 states so consumers can purchase subsidized coverage. Up until now, over a dozen states have done little or nothing to create such exchanges, partly because of the uncertainty over the fate of the law. Down the road, if Republicans succeed in taking control of the White House and the Senate in November (they already control the House of Representatives), they would likely try to repeal the law in 2013.

Where does the ruling leave health insurers?

* The health insurance industry can expect premium revenue from millions of new, healthy customers through state exchanges. But the industry will also have to operate with new consumer protections that require coverage access for people with pre-existing medical conditions and other health status issues, and mandate preventive care without customary charges.

How might the ruling influence the presidential campaign?

* This is a big victory for Obama, who has weathered years of criticism from conservatives about his reforms. The decision could energize the president and his supporters, while undercutting presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who introduced similar reforms as Massachusetts governor but opposes their use as national policy. But there could be a silver lining for Republicans: the opinion could light a fire under party candidates and constituents who want a president who would repeal the law in 2013.

(Reporting by David Morgan and Lewis Krauskopf; Editing by Michele Gershberg and Will Dunham)


OVERVIEW OF MEDICAL LOSS RATIO REBATES

The Affordable Care Act requires health insurers to spend a minimum percentage of their premium dollars on medical claims and quality improvement.  Insurers in the large group market must achieve a medical loss ratio (MLR) of 85%, while insurers in the individual and small group markets must achieve an MLR of 80%.  Insurers that fail to achieve these percentages must issue rebates to their policyholders.  The first of these MLR rebates are due in August of 2012, so plan sponsors should begin planning how to handle any rebates they might receive.

 

Which Plans Are Covered?

The MLR rules apply to all fully insured health plans (even grandfathered plans).  Self-funded plans are exempt.  Certain types of insured coverage, such as fixed indemnity, stand-alone dental and vision, and long-term disability, are also exempt.

If a rebate is payable to a group policyholder, the insurer must issue a single rebate check to the plan.  The plan sponsor must then decide whether and how to pass the rebate on to the plan's participants.

Calculating a Medical Loss Ratio

The calculation of an MLR is not specific to each policyholder, but is a state-by-state aggregate of the insurer's overall MLR within a particular market segment (e.g., individual, small group, or large group).  Thus, even if a specific employer plan has a low MLR (i.e., favorable claims experience), the employer may not necessarily receive a rebate.

States are permitted to set higher MLR targets.  In those states, insurers must comply with the more stringent state requirements.

Notices to Subscribers

Insurers must send written notices to their subscribers, informing them that a rebate will be issued.  Plan sponsors should be prepared to respond to questions from participants who receive these notices, particularly if the sponsor does not intend to share any of the rebate with those participants.

Likewise, even if an insurer meets the MLR requirements, it must notify subscribers that no rebate will be issued.  This notice must be included with the first plan document provided to enrollees on or after July 1, 2012.  Model notices<http://cciio.cms.gov/programs/marketreforms/mlr/index.html> are available on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services website.

How to Allocate MLR Rebates

The Department of Labor (DOL) issued Technical Release 2011-04<http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/newsroom/tr11-04.html>, summarizing how ERISA plan sponsors should handle MLR rebates.  To the extent that all or a portion of the rebate constitutes a "plan asset," the sponsor may have a fiduciary duty to share the rebate with plan participants.

In the absence of specific plan or policy language, the determination of whether an MLR rebate is considered to be a plan asset will depend, in part, on the identity of the group policyholder.  If the plan or trust is the policyholder, the MLR rebate will likely be considered a plan asset under ordinary notions of property rights.

However, if the employer is the policyholder, the determination will hinge on the source of the premium payments and the percentage of premiums paid by the employer, as opposed to plan participants.  If the premiums were paid entirely out of plan assets, the DOL's view is that the entire amount of the rebate would be considered a plan asset.  In other circumstances, only the portion of the rebate that is attributable to participant contributions will be considered a plan asset.

If all or a portion of a rebate does constitute a plan asset, then the plan sponsor will have to determine how and to whom to allocate the rebate.  For example, must a portion of the rebate be allocated to former plan participants?  The selection of an allocation method must be reasonable and it must be made solely in the interest of plan participants and beneficiaries.

However, a plan fiduciary may weigh the costs to the plan - and the ultimate plan benefit - when deciding on an allocation method.  Thus, for example, if the cost of calculating and distributing shares of a rebate to former participants approximates (or exceeds) the amount of the proceeds, a fiduciary is permitted to limit the allocation to current plan participants.

Similarly, if it is not cost-effective to distribute cash payments to plan participants (because the amounts are de minimis, or they would produce negative tax consequences for the participants), a fiduciary may use the rebate for other permissible plan purposes.  These might include a credit against future participant premium payments or benefit enhancements.

Tax Consequences

Before deciding to pass an MLR rebate on to participants, a plan sponsor will want to understand the tax implications of doing so.  The IRS has issued a set of questions and answers<http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=256167,00.html> on this topic.  Because this guidance is entirely in the form of examples, with few general principles provided, the tax treatment may not always be clear.  What is clear is that a number of factors will affect the taxability of an MLR rebate.

For individual policyholders receiving an MLR rebate, the IRS treats the rebate as a return of premiums (i.e., a purchase price adjustment).  As long as the premium payments were not deducted on the individual's federal tax return, the MLR rebate should not be taxable.  However, if an individual did deduct the premium payments, the MLR rebate will be taxable to the extent the individual received a tax benefit from that deduction.

For participants in a group plan, the tax consequences will depend on factors such as the source of the premium payments (employer versus participant), whether participant premiums were paid on an after-tax or pre-tax basis, and whether a participant who paid premiums on an after-tax basis later deducted those premiums on his or her federal income tax return.

Another key factor is whether the rebates are passed through only to participants who participated in the plan during both the year to which the rebate relates and the year it is received, or to all participants who participate during the year the rebate is received (i.e., without regard to whether they also participated during the year to which the rebate relates).

For instance, if a participant paid premiums on an after-tax basis and the MLR rebate is specifically conditioned on the participant having participated in the plan during both the year to which the rebate relates and the year it is received, any rebate allocated to that participant will generally not be taxable - regardless of whether the rebate takes the form of a cash payment or a reduction in future premium payments.  However, if the participant claimed a tax deduction for the premium payments (as might be the case for a self-employed individual), the rebate will be taxable to that participant.

On the other hand, if an MLR rebate is passed through to all current plan participants (regardless of whether they participated in the plan during the year to which the rebate relates), the rebate should not be taxable even if a participant took a tax deduction for premiums paid during that year.

Finally, if a participant paid premiums on a pre-tax basis (i.e., through a cafeteria plan), the return of those premiums - whether received in cash or as a credit against future premiums - will be subject to both income and employment taxes.


SUPREME COURT LARGELY UPHOLDS PPACA

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate and most of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).  As expected, it was a close decision -- 5-4 -- with Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Kagan and Sotomayor agreeing that the individual mandate is a permissible tax. Because the individual mandate was found to be acceptable, most of the rest of the law (including the exchanges and the requirement that larger employers provide minimum coverage or pay penalties of their own) automatically stands. 

Because PPACA has been upheld, employers need to move forward with implementing the changes required by the law.  The most immediate requirements are:

  • All group health plans, regardless of size, must provide "summaries of benefits coverage" (SBC) with the first open enrollment beginning on or after Sept. 23, 2012.  The content and format of these SBCs must meet strict guidelines, and the penalties for not providing them are high (up to $1,000 per failure).  Insurers will be expected to provide the SBCs for fully insured plans, while self-funded plans will be responsible for preparing their own.
    ---
  • Employers that issued 250 or more W-2s in 2011 must report the total value of each employee's medical coverage on their 2012 W-2 (which is to be issued in January 2013).
    ---
  • High income taxpayers (those with more than $250,000 in wages if married and filing jointly, or more than $200,00 if single) must pay additional Medicare tax, and employers will be responsible for deducting a part of the tax (an additional 0.9 percent on the employee's wages in excess of $200,000) from the employee's pay beginning in 2013.
    ---
  • The maximum employee contribution to a health flexible spending account (FSA) will be $2,500 beginning with the 2013 plan year.
    ---
  • The Patient Centered Outcomes fee (also called the comparative effectiveness fee) is due July 31, 2013.  The fee is $1 per covered life for the 2012 year.  Insurers will remit the fee on behalf of the plans they cover, while self-funded plans will pay the fee directly.

Politically, while House Republicans have pledged to repeal PPACA, it is unlikely a repeal bill would pass the Senate, and it would be vetoed in any event by President Barack Obama.  The fall elections, of course, could result in a change in control of Congress and/or the White House, and Republican victories would likely re-energize efforts to repeal PPACA or to discontinue funding needed to implement various parts of the law.

The opinion is long (193 pages) and complex, and we will provide additional details -- through both written alerts and a webinar -- once there has been more time to study the opinion.