On November 18, 2015, the Departments of Health and Human Services (“HHS”), Labor (“DOL”) and Treasury (collectively, the “Departments”) issued final rules regarding a variety of market reforms under the Affordable Care Act, including grandfathered plans, pre-existing condition exclusions, lifetime and annual limits, rescissions, dependent coverage, claims and appeals procedures and patient protections. This rulemaking—which finalizes the current interim final rules on these matters with very few changes—is effective on the first day of the plan year beginning on or after January 1, 2017. Some key takeaways from the final rules, including some of the changes made by the final rules, are as follows:

  • Grandfathered Plans:
    • Under the final rules, determination of grandfathered status for group health plans or group health insurance policies applies separately with respect to each benefit package offered by the group health plan or group health insurance coverage, and if any benefit package ceases grandfathered status, it will not affect the grandfathered status of the other benefit packages.
    • To maintain status as a grandfathered plan, a group health plan or group health insurance coverage must include, in any summary of benefits provided to participants, a statement that it is a grandfathered plan, as well as contact information for questions or complaints. Prior model notice language has been retained in the final rules.
    • Elimination of “all or substantially all” benefits to diagnose or treat a particular condition will cause a plan to lose its grandfathered status. The Departments declined to establish a bright-line test with regard to what constitutes “substantially all benefits,” leaving it instead to a facts-and-circumstances determination.
    • Although not addressed in the final rules themselves, the preamble to the final rules notes that the imposition of wellness programs, particularly wellness programs that impose penalties, may threaten grandfathered status.

Continue Reading DOL, HHS & Treasury Issue Final Rules on ACA Market Reforms

On December 2, 2015, CMS will publish a notice of proposed rulemaking for its Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters for 2017 (“Proposed Rule”). The Proposed Rule articulates the federal government’s policy for health care coverage under Affordable Care Act programs and would make several notable changes, including stricter network adequacy requirements for qualified health

On February 13, the Departments of Health and Human Services (“HHS”), Labor (“DOL”) and Treasury (collectively, the “Departments”) issued Part XXIII of their FAQs about Affordable Care Act implementation. This latest FAQ provides additional guidance regarding “excepted benefits,” i.e., benefits that are exempt from the portability rules under HIPAA as well as various requirements under ERISA (including MHPAEA) and the ACA, including the ACA’s market reforms (such as the prohibition on lifetime and annual limits, etc.). Specifically, the FAQ focuses on a subcategory of excepted benefits known as “supplemental excepted benefits,” which generally are benefits provided under a separate policy, certificate or contract of insurance which are designed to “fill gaps” in primary coverage.

The FAQ notes that, in determining whether insurance coverage sold as a supplement to group health coverage can be considered “similar supplemental coverage” (and hence an excepted benefit), they will continue to apply four criteria previously set forth by the Departments in subregulatory guidance issued in 2007 and 2008:

  1. The policy, certificate, or contract of insurance must be issued by an entity that does not provide the primary coverage under the plan;
  2. The supplemental policy, certificate, or contract of insurance must be specifically designed to fill gaps in primary coverage, such as coinsurance or deductibles;
  3. The cost of the supplemental coverage may not exceed 15 percent of the cost of the primary coverage; and
  4. Supplemental coverage sold in the group insurance market must not differentiate among individuals in eligibility, benefit or premiums based upon any health factor of the individual (or any dependents of the individual)

Continue Reading DOL, HHS & Treasury Issue Additional Guidance Regarding Excepted Benefits