PCORI Fee Is Due by July 31 for Self-Insured Health Plans

The annual fee for the federal Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) is due July 31, 2019. Plans with terms ending after September 30, 2012, and before October 1, 2019, are required to pay an annual PCORI fee. Read this article from SHRM to learn more.


An earlier version of this article was posted on November 6, 2018

The next annual fee that sponsors of self-insured health plans must pay to fund the federal Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) is due July 31, 2019.

The Affordable Care Act mandated payment of an annual PCORI fee by plans with terms ending after Sept. 30, 2012, and before Oct. 1, 2019, to provide initial funding for the Washington, D.C.-based institute, which funds research on the comparative effectiveness of medical treatments. Self-insured plans pay the fee themselves, while insurance companies pay the fee for fully insured plans but may pass the cost along to employers through higher premiums.

The IRS treats the fee like an excise tax.

The PCORI fee is due by the July 31 following the last day of the plan year. The final PCORI payment for sponsors of 2018 calendar-year plans is due by July 31, 2019. The final PCORI fee for plan years ending from Jan. 1, 2019 to Sept. 30, 2019, will be due by July 31, 2020.

In Notice 2018-85, the IRS set the amount used to calculate the PCORI fee at $2.45 per person covered by plan years ending Oct. 1, 2018, through Sept. 30, 2019.

The chart below shows the fees to be paid in 2019, which are slightly higher than the fees owed in 2018. The per-enrollee amount depends on when the plan year ended, as in previous years.

Fee per Plan Enrollee for Payment Due
July 31, 2019
Plan years ending from Oct. 1, 2018, through Sept. 30, 2019. $2.45
Fee per Plan Enrollee for Payment Due
July 31, 2018
Plan years ending from Oct. 1, 2017, through Dec. 31, 2017, including calendar-year plans. $2.39
Plan years ending from Jan. 1, 2017, through Sept. 30, 2017 $2.26
Source: IRS.

Nearing the End

The PCORI fee will not be assessed for plan years ending after Sept. 30, 2019, "which means that for a calendar-year plan, the last year for assessment is the 2018 calendar year," wrote Richard Stover, a New York City-based principal at HR consultancy Buck Global, and Amy Dunn, a principal in Buck's Knowledge Resource Center.

For noncalendar-year plans that end between Jan. 1, 2019 and Sept. 30, 3019, however, there will be one last PCORI payment due by July 31, 2020.

"There will not be any PCORI fee for plan years that end on October 1, 2019 or later," according to 360 Corporate Benefit Advisors.

The PCORI fee was first assessed for plan years ending after Sept. 30, 2012. The fee for the first plan year was $1 per plan enrollee, which increased to $2 per enrollee in the second year and was then indexed in subsequent years based on the increase in national health expenditures.

FSAs and HRAs

In addition to self-insured medical plans, health flexible spending accounts (health FSAs) and health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) that fail to qualify as “excepted benefits” would be required to pay the per-enrollee fee, wrote Gary Kushner, president and CEO of Kushner & Co., a benefits advisory firm based in Portage, Mich.

As set forth in the Department of Labor's Technical Release 2013-03:

  • health FSA is an excepted benefit if the employer does not contribute more than $500 a year to any employee accounts and also offers a group health plan with nonexcepted benefits.
  • An HRA is an excepted benefit if it only reimburses for limited-scope dental and vision expenses or long-term care coverage and is not integrated with a group health plan.

Kushner explained that:

  • If the employer sponsors a fully insured group health plan for which the insurance carrier is filing and paying the PCORI fee and the same employer sponsors an employer-funded health care FSA or an HRA not exempted from the fee, employers should only count the employees participating in the FSA or HRA, and not spouses or dependents, when paying the fee.
  • If the employer sponsors a self-funded group health plan, then the employer needs to file the form and pay the PCORI fee only on the number of individuals enrolled in the group health plan, and not in the employer-funded health care FSA or HRA.

An employer that sponsors a self-insured HRA along with a fully insured medical plan "must pay PCORI fees based on the number of employees (dependents are not included in this count) participating in the HRA, while the insurer pays the PCORI fee on the individuals (including dependents) covered under the insured plan," wrote Mark Holloway, senior vice president and director of compliance services at Lockton Companies, a benefits broker and services firm based in Kansas City, Mo. Where an employer maintains an HRA along with a self-funded medical plan and both have the same plan year, "the employer pays a single PCORI fee based on the number of covered lives in the self-funded medical plan (the HRA is disregarded)."

Paying PCORI Fees

Self-insured employers are responsible for submitting the fee and accompanying paperwork to the IRS, as "third-party reporting and payment of the fee is not permitted for self-funded plans," Holloway noted.

For the coming year, self-insured health plan sponsors should use Form 720 for the second calendar quarter to report and pay the PCORI fee by July 31, 2019.

"On p. 2 of Form 720, under Part II, the employer needs to designate the average number of covered lives under its applicable self-insured plan," Holloway explained. The number of covered lives will be multiplied by $2.45 for plan years ending on or after Oct. 1, 2018, to determine the total fee owed to the IRS next July.

To calculate "the average number of lives covered" or plan enrollees, employers should use one of three methods listed on pages 8 and 9 of the Instructions for Form 720. A white paper by Keller Benefit Services describes these methods in greater detail.

Although the fee is paid annually, employers should indicate on the Payment Voucher (720-V), located at the end of Form 720, that the tax period for the fee is the second quarter of the year. "Failure to properly designate 'second quarter' on the voucher will result in the IRS's software generating a tardy filing notice, with all the incumbent aggravation on the employer to correct the matter with the IRS," Holloway warned.

A few other points to keep in mind: "The U.S. Department of Labor believes the fee cannot be paid from plan assets," he said. In other words, for self-insured health plans, "the PCORI fee must be paid by the plan sponsor. It is not a permissible expense of a self-funded plan and cannot be paid in whole or part by participant contributions."

In addition, PCORI fees "should not be included in the plan's cost when computing the plan's COBRA premium," Holloway noted. But "the IRS has indicated the fee is, however, a tax-deductible business expense for employers with self-funded plans," he added, citing a May 2013 IRS memorandum.

SOURCE: Miller, S. (2 July 2019) "PCORI Fee Is Due by July 31 for Self-Insured Health Plans" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/2019-pcori-fees.aspx


PCORI Fee Increase for 2015

Original post thinkhr.com

The IRS recently released Notice 2015-60 to announce the health plan Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) fee for plan years ending between October 1, 2015 and September 30, 2016.

Background
The Affordable Care Act created the PCORI to study clinical effectiveness and health outcomes. To finance the nonprofit institute’s work, a small annual fee — commonly called the PCORI fee — is charged on group health plans.

The fee is an annual amount multiplied by the number of plan participants. The dollar amount of the fee is based on the ending date of the plan year:

  • For plan year ending between October 1, 2012 and September 30, 2013: $1.00.
  • For plan year ending between October 1, 2013 and September 30, 2014: $2.00.
  • For plan year ending between October 1, 2014 and September 30, 2015: $2.08.
  • For plan year ending between October 1, 2015 and September 30, 2016: $2.17

For future years, the fee amount will be adjusted for inflation. The program sunsets in 2019, so no fee will apply for plan years ending after September 30, 2019.

Insurers are responsible for calculating and paying the fee for insured plans. For self-funded health plans, however, the employer sponsor is responsible for calculating and paying the fee. Payment is due by filing Form 720 by July 31 following the end of the calendar year in which the health plan year ends. For example, if the group health plan year ends December 31, 2015, Form 720 must be filed along with payment no later than July 31, 2016.

Certain types of health plans are exempt from the fee, such as:

  • Stand-alone dental and/or vision plans;
  • Employee assistance, disease management, and wellness programs that do not provide significant medical care benefits;
  • Stop-loss insurance policies; and
  • Health savings accounts (HSAs).

A health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) also is exempt from the fee provided that it is integrated with another self-funded health plan sponsored by the same employer. In that case, the employer pays the PCORI fee with respect to its self-funded plan, but does not pay again just for the HRA component. If, however, the HRA is integrated with a group insurance health plan, the insurer will pay the PCORI fee with respect to the insured coverage and the employer pays the fee for the HRA component.

Resources
The IRS provides the following guidance to help plan sponsors calculate, report, and pay the PCORI fee:


Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute Fee

Originally posted by irs.gov.

The Affordable Care Act imposes a fee on issuers of specified health insurance policies and plan sponsors of applicable self-insured health plans to help fund the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute. The fee, required to be reported only once a year on the second quarter Form 720 and paid by its due date, July 31, is based on the average number of lives covered under the policy or plan.

The fee applies to policy or plan years ending on or after Oct. 1, 2012, and before Oct. 1, 2019. The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute fee is filed using Form 720, Quarterly Federal Excise Tax Return. Although Form 720 is a quarterly return, for PCORI, Form 720 is filed annually only, by July 31.

Please refer to the following chart for the filing due date and applicable rate depending upon the month a specified health insurance policy or an applicable self-insured health plan ends.

Specified Health Insurance Policies and Applicable Self-Insured Health Plans
The fee is imposed on an issuer of a specified health insurance policy and a plan sponsor of an applicable self-insured health plan. For more information on whether a type of insurance coverage or arrangement is subject to the fee, see this chart.

Calculating the Fee
Specified Health Insurance Policies

For issuers of specified health insurance policies, the fee for a policy year ending before Oct. 1, 2013, is $1, multiplied by the average number of lives covered under the policy for that policy year. Generally, issuers of specified health insurance policies must use one of the following four alternative methods to determine the average number of lives covered under a policy for the policy year.

  1. Actual Count Method: For policy years that end on or after Oct. 1, 2012, issuers using the actual count method may begin counting lives covered under a policy as May 14, 2012, rather than the first day of the policy year, and divide by the appropriate number of days remaining in the policy year.
  2. Snapshot Method: For policy years that end on or after Oct. 1, 2013, but began before May 14, 2012, issuers using the snapshot method may use counts from the quarters beginning on or after May 14, 2012, to determine the average number of lives covered under the policy.
  3. Member Months Method and 4. State Form Method: The member months data and the data reported on state forms are based on the calendar year. To adjust for 2012, issuers will use a pro rata approach for calculating the average number of lives covered using the member months method or the state form method for 2012. For example, the issuers using the member months number for 2012 will divide the member months number by 12 and multiply the resulting number by one quarter to arrive at the average number of lives covered for October through December 2012.

For more information on these methods to determine the average number of lives covered under a policy for the policy year, please see the final regulations (PDF).

Applicable Self-Insured Health Plans

For plan sponsors of applicable self-insured health plans, the fee for a plan year ending before Oct. 1, 2013, is $1, multiplied by the average number of lives covered under the plan for that plan year. Generally, plan sponsors of applicable self-insured health plans must use one of the following three alternative methods to determine the average number of lives covered under a plan for the plan year.

  1. Actual Count Method: A plan sponsor may determine the average number of lives covered under a plan for a plan year by adding the totals of lives covered for each day of the play year and dividing that total by the total number of days in the plan year.
  2. Snapshot Method: A plan sponsor may determine the average number of lives covered under an applicable self-insured health plan for a plan year based on the total number of lives covered on one date (or more dates if an equal number of dates is used in each quarter) during the first, second or third month of each quarter, and dividing that total by the number of dates on which a count was made.
  3. Form 5500 Method: An eligible plan sponsor may determine the average number of lives covered under a plan for a plan year based on the number of participants reported on the Form 5500, Annual Return/Report of Employee Benefit Plan, or the Form 5500-SF, Short Form Annual Return/Report of Small Employee Benefit Plan.

However, for plan years beginning before July 11, 2012, and ending on or after Oct. 1, 2012, plan sponsors may determine the average number of lives covered under the plan for the plan year using any reasonable method.

For more information on these methods to determine the average number of lives covered under applicable self-insured health plans for the plan year, please see the final regulations (PDF).

Reporting and Paying the Fee
File the second quarter Form 720 annually to report and pay the fee no later than July 31 of the calendar year immediately following the last day of the policy year or plan year to which the fee applies. Issuers and plan sponsors who are required to pay the fee but are not required to report any other liabilities on a Form 720 will be required to file a Form 720 only once a year. They will not be required to file a Form 720 for the first, third or fourth quarters of the year. Deposits are not required for this fee, so issuers and plans sponsors are not required to pay the fee using EFTPS.

Please see the instructions for Form 720 on how to fill out the form and calculate the fee. If for any reason you need to make corrections after filing your annual Form 720 for PCORI, write “Amended PCORI” at the top of the second filing.

The payment, if paid through the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, should be applied to the second quarter (in EFTPS, select Q2 for the Quarter under Tax Period on the "Business Tax Payment" page).

Related Items:

  • The IRS and the Treasury Department have issued final regulations on this fee.
  • Notice 2014-56 establishes the applicable dollar amount for policy and plan years ending after Sept. 30, 2014, and before Oct. 1, 2015.
  • For information on the fee, see our questions and answers and chart summary.
  • Form 720, Quarterly Federal Excise Tax Return, was revised to provide for the reporting and payment of the patient-centered outcomes research fee.

Upcoming PCORI Fee Due July 31

Source: http://www.irs.gov

The Affordable Care Act imposes a fee on issuers of specified health insurance policies and plan sponsors of applicable self-insured health plans to help fund the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute. The fee, required to be reported only once a year on the second quarter Form 720 and paid by its due date, July 31, is based on the average number of lives covered under the policy or plan.

The fee applies to policy or plan years ending on or after Oct. 1, 2012, and before Oct. 1, 2019. The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute fee is filed using Form 720, Quarterly Federal Excise Tax Return. Although Form 720 is a quarterly return, for PCORI, Form 720 is filed annually only, by July 31.

Specified Health Insurance Policies and Applicable Self-Insured Health Plans

The fee is imposed on an issuer of a specified health insurance policy and a plan sponsor of an applicable self-insured health plan. For more information on whether a type of insurance coverage or arrangement is subject to the fee, see this chart.

Calculating the Fee

Specified Health Insurance Policies

For issuers of specified health insurance policies, the fee for a policy year ending before Oct. 1, 2013, is $1, multiplied by the average number of lives covered under the policy for that policy year. Generally, issuers of specified health insurance policies must use one of the following four alternative methods to determine the average number of lives covered under a policy for the policy year.

  1. Actual Count Method: For policy years that end on or after Oct. 1, 2012, issuers using the actual count method may begin counting lives covered under a policy as May 14, 2012, rather than the first day of the policy year, and divide by the appropriate number of days remaining in the policy year.
  2. Snapshot Method: For policy years that end on or after Oct. 1, 2013, but began before May 14, 2012, issuers using the snapshot method may use counts from the quarters beginning on or after May 14, 2012, to determine the average number of lives covered under the policy.
  3. Member Months Method and 4. State Form Method: The member months data and the data reported on state forms are based on the calendar year. To adjust for 2012, issuers will use a pro rata approach for calculating the average number of lives covered using the member months method or the state form method for 2012. For example, the issuers using the member months number for 2012 will divide the member months number by 12 and multiply the resulting number by one quarter to arrive at the average number of lives covered for October through December 2012.

For more information on these methods to determine the average number of lives covered under a policy for the policy year, please see the final regulations (PDF).

Applicable Self-Insured Health Plans

For plan sponsors of applicable self-insured health plans, the fee for a plan year ending before Oct. 1, 2013, is $1, multiplied by the average number of lives covered under the plan for that plan year. Generally, plan sponsors of applicable self-insured health plans must use one of the following three alternative methods to determine the average number of lives covered under a plan for the plan year.

  1. Actual Count Method: A plan sponsor may determine the average number of lives covered under a plan for a plan year by adding the totals of lives covered for each day of the play year and dividing that total by the total number of days in the plan year.
  2. Snapshot Method: A plan sponsor may determine the average number of lives covered under an applicable self-insured health plan for a plan year based on the total number of lives covered on one date (or more dates if an equal number of dates is used in each quarter) during the first, second or third month of each quarter, and dividing that total by the number of dates on which a count was made.
  3. Form 5500 Method: An eligible plan sponsor may determine the average number of lives covered under a plan for a plan year based on the number of participants reported on the Form 5500, Annual Return/Report of Employee Benefit Plan, or the Form 5500-SF, Short Form Annual Return/Report of Small Employee Benefit Plan.

However, for plan years beginning before July 11, 2012, and ending on or after Oct. 1, 2012, plan sponsors may determine the average number of lives covered under the plan for the plan year using any reasonable method.

For more information on these methods to determine the average number of lives covered under applicable self-insured health plans for the plan year, please see the final regulations (PDF).

Reporting and Paying the Fee

File the second quarter Form 720 annually to report and pay the fee no later than July 31 of the calendar year immediately following the last day of the policy year or plan year to which the fee applies. Issuers and plan sponsors who are required to pay the fee but are not required to report any other liabilities on a Form 720 will be required to file a Form 720 only once a year. They will not be required to file a Form 720 for the first, third or fourth quarters of the year. Deposits are not required for this fee, so issuers and plans sponsors are not required to pay the fee using EFTPS.

Please see the instructions for Form 720 on how to fill out the form and calculate the fee. If for any reason you need to make corrections after filing your annual Form 720 for PCORI, write “Amended PCORI” at the top of the second filing.

The payment, if paid through the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, should be applied to the second quarter (in EFTPS, select Q2 for the Quarter under Tax Period on the "Business Tax Payment" page).

 


First round of employers’ ‘PCORI fees’ due July 31

Originally published July 19, 2013 by Garrett Fenton and Fred Oliphant on http://ebn.benefitnews.com

Most employers that sponsor self-funded group health plans, and insurers of fully-insured group health plans, will need to file and pay by July 31 their first round of federal comparative effectiveness research fees imposed under the Affordable Care Act. ACA established the annual fee -- which is known as the “PCORI fee” -- in order to fund comparative clinical effectiveness research to be conducted by the newly-established, non-profit Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute.

The amount of the fee is $1 for each individual covered under the group health plan, for the first plan year ending on or after October 1, 2012 (i.e., 2012, for a calendar-year plan), and must be reported on IRS Form 720 and paid by no later than July 31 of the calendar year following the end of the relevant plan year (i.e., by July 31, 2013, for a calendar-year plan). The amount of the fee will increase to $2 per covered individual for the following plan year, and will be increased further for inflation in subsequent years.

The fee is scheduled to expire with the last plan year ending before October 1, 2019, meaning the last fee for a calendar-year plan will need to be filed and paid (for the 2018 plan year) by July 31, 2019. The IRS Office of Chief Counsel recently confirmed that PCORI fees paid by an employer or insurer are tax-deductible, as ordinary and necessary business expenses, under section 162 of the Internal Revenue Code.

The IRS issued final regulations implementing the PCORI fee last December. The regulations include detailed rules regarding the methods by which an employer or insurer may count enrollees under a group health plan for each year, and provide exemptions for certain types of plans and special rules for employers that sponsor multiple plan options. We understand that there has been some confusion among employers regarding the application of the PCORI fee to health flexible spending arrangements and health reimbursement arrangements.

As an initial matter, most employer-sponsored health FSAs (but not necessarily HRAs) qualify as “HIPAA-excepted,” and are therefore exempt from the PCORI fee. But in some instances -- generally, where the employer makes additional, substantial “non-elective” or “matching” contributions to its employees' health FSAs (or does not offer its employees a primary, major medical plan option in addition to the health FSA) -- the HIPAA-excepted exemption does not apply, meaning the fee will be imposed on the health FSA (perhaps subject to additional, special rules set forth below).

Where an employer offers a fully-insured primary group health plan along with an “integrated” HRA (or non-HIPAA-excepted health FSA), two separate PCORI fees will be imposed: the employer/plan sponsor will owe one fee for the HRA or health FSA, and the health insurer will owe a separate fee for the fully-insured primary plan. By contrast, where an employer offers a self-insured group health plan along with an integrated HRA (or non-HIPAA-excepted health FSA), a single fee will generally be imposed on the employer, for each employee covered under both the primary plan and the HRA (or health FSA), provided that the primary plan and HRA (or health FSA) have the same plan year.

The IRS recently updated the Form 720 (and related instructions) -- which some employers already file, on a quarterly basis, to report certain federal excise taxes -- to reflect the PCORI fee. Third party service providers, such as third party administrators, will not be allowed to file the Form 720 on behalf of a responsible entity. Therefore, employers sponsoring calendar year, self-funded group health plans (and insurers of calendar-year, fully-insured plans) must be prepared to complete and file the Form 720, and pay their first round of PCORI fees, by July 31.

 


IRS Issues Final Rule on Comparative Evidence PCORI Fees

This content was originally published by Stephen Miller on the SHRM website. 

Fees, due by July 31, will be charged to health care insurers, and to sponsors of self-insured health plans, to fund the new Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI)

Revised Form 720 Issued

For sponsors of self-insured health plans, the IRS posted an updated Form 720 and accompanying instructions on its website. The new Form 720 (with a revision date of April 2013), along with related payment voucher Form 720-V, should be used to report and remit the "PCORI fee" to the IRS. Although the Form 720 is designed for quarterly payments of certain excise taxes, the PCORI fee is paid only annually.

The fee, as described below, is required to be reported annually on the second quarter Form 720 and paid by its due date, July 31, with the first fee payment due July 31, 2013.

PCORI Fee Is Deductible

In another development, the PCORI fee is an “ordinary and necessary business expense paid or incurred in carrying on a trade or business” and as result is tax-deductible, the IRS said in a May 31, 2013, memorandum.

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service issued a final rule on Fees on Health Insurance Policies and Self-Insured Plans for the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Trust Fund, published in the Federal Register on Dec. 6, 2012.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) establishes the nonprofit Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to promote the use of evidence-based medicine by disseminating comparative clinical effectiveness research findings.

To fund the PCORI, the PPACA imposes a fee on health insurers and employer who sponsor self-insured health plans, for each policy or plan year ending on or after Oct. 1, 2012, and before Oct. 1, 2019, with the first fee payment due July 31, 2013. Subsequently, the PCORI fee will be due no later than July 31 following the last day of the plan year.

The fee will be $1 per plan participant for the first plan year ending after Sept. 30, 2012, and $2 per participant in succeeding years. For policy or plan years ending on or after Oct. 1, 2014, the fee will be increased based on increases in the projected per capita amount of national health expenditures.

Scope of Fees Clarified

Among other points, the final rule clarifies that the fee imposed on an employer sponsoring a self-insured health plan is based on the average number of lives covered under the plan during the plan year.

If an employer sponsors more than one self-insured arrangement, those arrangements may be treated as a single plan for purposes of calculating the PCORI fee, but only if the plans have the same plan year.

Several commentators had requested that the final regulations provide that PCORI fees do not apply multiple times if accident and health coverage is provided to one individual through more than one policy or self-insured arrangement (for example, where an individual is covered by a fully insured major medical insurance policy and a self-insured prescription arrangement).

The final rule does not adopt the requested change. For example, for an employee covered by both a group insurance policy and a health reimbursement arrangement (HRA), the group insurance policy falls within the definition of a specified health insurance policy and the fee applies to the insurer, while the HRA falls within the definition of an applicable self-insured health plan, so that the fee applies to the plan sponsor.

The final rule also applies PCORI fees to policies and plans that provide accident and health coverage to retirees, including retiree-only policies and plans. And it states explicitly that COBRA and other types of continuation coverage must be taken into account in determining PCORI fees, unless the arrangement is otherwise excluded.

However, in response to comments, the final rule permits a self-insured health plan that provides accident and health coverage through fully insured options and self-insured options to determine the fee imposed by disregarding the lives that are covered solely under the fully insured options.

What Plans Are Subject to the Comparative Evidence "PCORI" Fee?

Plans subject to the fee:

 Medical plans.

 Prescription drug plans.

 Self-insured dental or vision plans, if provided without a separate election or premium charge.

 Health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs).

 Retiree-only health plans (even though some are exempt from other PPACA mandates).

Plans exempt from the fee:

 Separately insured dental or vision plans.

 Self-insured dental or vision plans, if subject to separate coverage elections and employee contributions.

 Expatriate coverage provided primarily for employees who work and reside outside of the U.S.

 Health savings accounts (HSAs).

 Most flexible spending accounts (FSAs).

 Employee assistance programs (EAPs), wellness programs and disease management programs that do not provide "significant benefits in the nature of medical care or treatment."

Source: Pinnacle Financial Group, Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Fee Overview

Reconsidering Plan Designs

According to an alert from law firm Leonard, Street and Deinard, employers who sponsor multiple self-funded plans with the same plan year ends can aggregate those plans and pay the fee once on overlapping lives. However, because the fee is imposed on the plan sponsor and not on the plan itself, the employer must pay the fee outside the plan, meaning that plan assets cannot be used to pay the fee.

The law firm's alert also notes that:

Employers with self-funded high deductible health plans that are paired with self-funded HRAs can aggregate those plans and pay the fee once with respect to an individual covered by both the high deductible health plan and the HRA. In contrast, an employer that sponsors a fully insured high deductible health plan paired with a self-funded HRA will essentially be required to pay the fee twice on the same lives. The IRS concluded that because separate statutes impose the fee on plan sponsors of self-funded plans and insurance companies issuing fully insured policies, the IRS is unable to permit employers with both types of plans to combine them for purposes of determining the number of covered lives that they have.

Employers who sponsor self-funded HRAs with fully insured medical plans may wish to consider other plan designs to avoid this fee, such as self-funding the high deductible health plan or moving to a plan design that uses HSAs instead of HRAs. Alternatively, if there are relatively few people covered under the HRA and if the HRA has been an effective plan design, employers may simply decide to continue offering the plan and pay the additional fee.

 

 


FAQs about Affordable Care Act Implementation Part XI

Source: http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/faqs/faq-aca11.html

Set out below are additional Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding implementation of various provisions of the Affordable Care Act. These FAQs have been prepared by the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Treasury (collectively, the Departments). Like previously issued FAQs (available at http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/healthreform/), these FAQs answer questions from stakeholders to help people understand the new law and benefit from it, as intended.

The Departments anticipate issuing further responses to questions and issuing other guidance in the future. We hope these publications will provide additional clarity and assistance.

Notice of Coverage Options Available Through the Exchanges

Section 18B of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), as added by section 1512 of the Affordable Care Act, generally provides that, in accordance with regulations promulgated by the Secretary of Labor, an applicable employer must provide each employee at the time of hiring (or with respect to current employees, not later than March 1, 2013), a written notice:

  1. Informing the employee of the existence of Exchanges including a description of the services provided by the Exchanges, and the manner in which the employee may contact Exchanges to request assistance;
  2. If the employer plan's share of the total allowed costs of benefits provided under the plan is less than 60 percent of such costs, that the employee may be eligible for a premium tax credit under section 36B of the Internal Revenue Code (the Code) if the employee purchases a qualified health plan through an Exchange; and
  3. If the employee purchases a qualified health plan through an Exchange, the employee may lose the employer contribution (if any) to any health benefits plan offered by the employer and that all or a portion of such contribution may be excludable from income for Federal income tax purposes.

 

Q1: When do employers have to comply with the new notice requirements in section 18B of the FLSA?

Section 18B of the FLSA provides that employer compliance with the notice requirements of that section must be carried out "[i]n accordance with regulations promulgated by the Secretary [of Labor]." Accordingly, it is the view of the Department of Labor that, until such regulations are issued and become applicable, employers are not required to comply with FLSA section 18B.

The Department of Labor has concluded that the notice requirement under FLSA section 18B will not take effect on March 1, 2013 for several reasons. First, this notice should be coordinated with HHS's educational efforts and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance on minimum value. Second, we are committed to a smooth implementation process including providing employers with sufficient time to comply and selecting an applicability date that ensures that employees receive the information at a meaningful time. The Department of Labor expects that the timing for distribution of notices will be the late summer or fall of 2013, which will coordinate with the open enrollment period for Exchanges.

The Department of Labor is considering providing model, generic language that could be used to satisfy the notice requirement. As a compliance alternative, the Department of Labor is also considering allowing employers to satisfy the notice requirement by providing employees with information using the employer coverage template as discussed in the preamble to the Proposed Rule on Medicaid, Children's Health Insurance Programs, and Exchanges: Essential Health Benefits in Alternative Benefit Plans, Eligibility Notices, Fair Hearing and Appeal Processes for Medicaid and Exchange Eligibility Appeals and Other Provisions Related to Eligibility and Enrollment for Exchanges, Medicaid and CHIP, and Medicaid Premiums and Cost Sharing (78 FR 4594, at 4641), which will be available for download at the Exchange web site as part of the streamlined application that will be used by the Exchange, Medicaid, and CHIP. Future guidance on complying with the notice requirement under FLSA section 18B is expected to provide flexibility and adequate time to comply.

Compliance of Health Reimbursement Arrangements with Public Health Service Act (PHS Act) section 2711

Section 2711 of the PHS Act, as added by the Affordable Care Act, generally prohibits plans and issuers from imposing lifetime or annual limits on the dollar value of essential health benefits. The preamble to the interim final regulations implementing PHS Act section 2711 (75 FR 37188) addressed the application of section 2711 to health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) and certain other account-based arrangements. HRAs are group health plans that typically consist of a promise by an employer(1) to reimburse medical expenses (as defined in Code section 213(d)) for a year up to a certain amount, with unused amounts available to reimburse medical expenses in future years. The preamble distinguished between HRAs that are "integrated" with other coverage as part of a group health plan and HRAs that are not so integrated ("stand-alone" HRAs). The preamble stated that "[w]hen HRAs are integrated with other coverage as part of a group health plan and the other coverage alone would comply with the requirements of PHS Act section 2711, the fact that benefits under the HRA by itself are limited does not violate PHS Act section 2711 because the combined benefit satisfies the requirements." (75 FR 37188, at 37190-37191). The corollary to this statement is that an HRA is not considered integrated with primary health coverage offered by the employer unless, under the terms of the HRA, the HRA is available only to employees who are covered by primary group health plan coverage provided by the employer and meeting the requirements of PHS Act section 2711.

Questions 2 through 4 below address certain issues relating to HRAs. The Departments anticipate issuing future guidance addressing HRAs.(2)

Q2: May an HRA used to purchase coverage on the individual market be considered integrated with that individual market coverage and therefore satisfy the requirements of PHS Act section 2711?

No. The Departments intend to issue guidance providing that for purposes of PHS Act section 2711, an employer-sponsored HRA cannot be integrated with individual market coverage or with an employer plan that provides coverage through individual policies and therefore will violate PHS Act section 2711.

Q3: If an employee is offered coverage that satisfies PHS Act section 2711 but does not enroll in that coverage, may an HRA provided to that employee be considered integrated with the coverage and therefore satisfy the requirements of PHS Act section 2711?

No. The Departments intend to issue guidance under PHS Act section 2711 providing that an employer-sponsored HRA may be treated as integrated with other coverage only if the employee receiving the HRA is actually enrolled in that coverage. Any HRA that credits additional amounts to an individual when the individual is not enrolled in primary coverage meeting the requirements of PHS Act section 2711 provided by the employer will fail to comply with PHS Act section 2711.

Q4: How will amounts that are credited or made available under HRAs under terms that were in effect prior to January 1, 2014, be treated?

The Departments anticipate that future guidance will provide that, whether or not an HRA is integrated with other group health plan coverage, unused amounts credited before January 1, 2014, consisting of amounts credited before January 1, 2013 and amounts that are credited in 2013 under the terms of an HRA as in effect on January 1, 2013 may be used after December 31, 2013 to reimburse medical expenses in accordance with those terms without causing the HRA to fail to comply with PHS Act section 2711. If the HRA terms in effect on January 1, 2013, did not prescribe a set amount or amounts to be credited during 2013 or the timing for crediting such amounts, then the amounts credited may not exceed those credited for 2012 and may not be credited at a faster rate than the rate that applied during 2012.

Disclosure of Information Related to Firearms

Q5: Does PHS Act section 2717(c) restrict communications between health care professionals and their patients concerning firearms or ammunition?

No. While we have yet to issue guidance on this provision, the statute prohibits an organization operating a wellness or health promotion program from requiring the disclosure of information relating to certain information concerning firearms. However, nothing in this section prohibits or otherwise limits communication between health care professionals and their patients, including communications about firearms. Health care providers can play an important role in promoting gun safety.

Self-Insured Employer Prescription Drug Coverage Supplementing Medicare Part D Coverage Provided through Employer Group Waiver Plans

Medicare Part D is an optional prescription drug benefit provided by prescription drug plans. Employers sometimes provide Medicare Part D coverage through Employer Group Waiver Plans (EGWPs) under title XVIII of the Social Security Act and often supplement the coverage with additional non-Medicare drug benefits. For EGWPs that provide coverage only to retirees, the non-Medicare supplemental drug benefits are exempt from the health coverage requirements of title XXVII of the PHS Act, Part 7 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), and Chapter 100 of the Code. (For ease of reference, the relevant provisions of the three statutes are referred to here as "the health coverage requirements.") Moreover, for EGWPs that are insured under a separate policy, certificate, or contract of insurance, the non-Medicare supplemental drug benefits qualify as excepted benefits under PHS Act section 2791(c)(4), ERISA section 733(c)(4), and Code section 9832(c)(4) and are, therefore, similarly exempt from the health coverage requirements.

Q6: Must self-insured prescription drug coverage that supplements the standard Medicare Part D coverage through EGWPs comply with the health coverage requirements?

Pending further guidance, the Departments will not take any enforcement action against a group health plan that is an EGWP because the non-Medicare supplemental drug benefit does not comply with the health coverage requirements of title XXVII of the PHS Act, part 7 of ERISA, and chapter 100 of the Code. This enforcement policy does not affect other requirements administered by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services that apply to providers of such coverage. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services intends to issue related guidance concerning insured coverage that provides non-Medicare supplemental drug benefits shortly.

Fixed Indemnity Insurance

Fixed indemnity coverage under a group health plan meeting the conditions outlined in the Departments' regulations(3) is an excepted benefit under PHS Act section 2791(c)(3)(B), ERISA section 733(c)(3)(B), and Code section 9832(c)(3)(B). As such, it is exempt from the health coverage requirements of title XXVII of the PHS Act, part 7 of ERISA, and chapter 100 of the Code. The Departments have noticed a significant increase in the number of health insurance policies labeled as fixed indemnity coverage.

Q7: What are the circumstances under which fixed indemnity coverage constitutes excepted benefits?

The Departments' regulations provide that a hospital indemnity or other fixed indemnity insurance policy under a group health plan provides excepted benefits only if:

  • The benefits are provided under a separate policy, certificate, or contract of insurance;
  • There is no coordination between the provision of the benefits and an exclusion of benefits under any group health plan maintained by the same plan sponsor; and
  • The benefits are paid with respect to an event without regard to whether benefits are provided with respect to the event under any group health plan maintained by the same plan sponsor.

The regulations further provide that to be hospital indemnity or other fixed indemnity insurance, the insurance must pay a fixed dollar amount per day (or per other period) of hospitalization or illness (for example, $100/day) regardless of the amount of expenses incurred.

Various situations have come to the attention of the Departments where a health insurance policy is advertised as fixed indemnity coverage, but then covers doctors' visits at $50 per visit, hospitalization at $100 per day, various surgical procedures at different dollar rates per procedure, and/or prescription drugs at $15 per prescription. In such circumstances, for doctors' visits, surgery, and prescription drugs, payment is made not on a per-period basis, but instead is based on the type of procedure or item, such as the surgery or doctor visit actually performed or the prescribed drug, and the amount of payment varies widely based on the type of surgery or the cost of the drug. Because office visits and surgery are not paid based on "a fixed dollar amount per day (or per other period)," a policy such as this is not hospital indemnity or other fixed indemnity insurance, and is therefore not excepted benefits. When a policy pays on a per-service basis as opposed to on a per-period basis, it is in practice a form of health coverage instead of an income replacement policy. Accordingly, it does not meet the conditions for excepted benefits.

The Departments plan to work with the States to ensure that health insurance issuers comply with the relevant requirements for different types of insurance policies and provide consumers with the protections of the Affordable Care Act.

Payment of PCORI Fees

Section 4376 of the Code, as added by the Affordable Care Act, imposes a temporary annual fee on the sponsor of an applicable self-insured health plan for plan years ending on or after October 1, 2012, and before October 1, 2019. The fee is equal to the applicable dollar amount in effect for the plan year ($1 for plan years ending on or after October 1, 2012, and before October 1, 2013) multiplied by the average number of lives covered under the applicable self-insured health plan during the plan year. In the case of (i) a plan established or maintained by 2 or more employers or jointly by 1 or more employers and 1 or more employee organizations, (ii) a multiple employer welfare arrangement, or (iii) a voluntary employees' beneficiary association (VEBA) described in Code section 501(c)(9), the plan sponsor is defined in Code section 4376(b)(2)(C) as the association, committee, joint board of trustees, or other similar group of representatives of the parties who establish or maintain the plan.

Q8: Does Title I of ERISA prohibit a multiemployer plan's joint board of trustees from paying the Code section 4376 fee from assets of the plan?

In the case of a multiemployer plan defined in ERISA section 3(37), the plan sponsor liable for the fee would generally be the independent joint board of trustees appointed by the participating employers and employee organization, and directed pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement to establish the employee benefit plan. Normally, such a joint board of trustees has no function other than to sponsor and administer the multiemployer plan, and it has no source of funding independent of plan assets to satisfy the Code section 4376 statutory obligation. The fee involved is not an excise tax or similar penalty imposed on the trustees in connection with a violation of federal law or a breach of their fiduciary obligations in connection with the plan. Nor would the joint board be acting in a capacity other than as a fiduciary of the plan in paying the fee.(4) In such circumstances, it would be unreasonable to construe the fiduciary provisions of ERISA as prohibiting the use of plan assets to pay such a fee to the Federal government. Thus, unless the plan document specifies a source other than plan assets for payment of the fee under Code section 4376, such a payment from plan assets would be permissible under ERISA.

There may be rare circumstances where sponsors of employee benefit plans that are not multiemployer plans would also be able to use plan assets to pay the Code section 4376 fee, such as a VEBA that provides retiree-only health benefits where the sponsor is a trustee or board of trustees that exists solely for the purpose of sponsoring and administering the plan and that has no source of funding independent of plan assets.

The same conclusion would not necessarily apply, however, to other plan sponsors required to pay the fee under Code section 4376. For example, a group or association of employers that act as a plan sponsor but that also exist for reasons other than solely to sponsor and administer a plan may not use plan assets to pay the fee even if the plan uses a VEBA trust to pay benefits under the plan. The Department of Labor would expect that such an entity or association, like employers that sponsor single employer plans, would have to identify and use some other source of funding to pay the Code section 4376 fee.

Footnotes

  1. An HRA may be sponsored by an employer, an employee organization, or both. For simplicity, this section of the FAQs refers to employers. However, this guidance is equally applicable to HRAs sponsored by employee organizations, or jointly by employers and employee organizations.
  2. With respect to HRAs that are limited to retirees, the exemption from the requirements of ERISA and the Code relating to the Affordable Care Act for plans with fewer than two current employees means that retiree-only HRAs generally are not subject to the rules of PHS Act section 2711. See the preamble to the interim final rules implementing PHS Act section 2711 (75 FR 37188, at 37191). See also ACA Implementation FAQs Part III, issued on October 12, 2010 (available at http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/faqs/faq-aca3.html).
  3. See 26 CFR 54.9831-1(c)(4), 29 CFR 732(c)(4), 45 CFR 146.145(c)(4).
  4. See generally, ERISA Field Assistance Bulletin 2002-02 (trustees of multiemployer plans, if allowed under the plan documents, may act as fiduciaries in carrying out activities that otherwise would be settlor in nature), available at http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/regs/fab2002-2.html.