Is Your Company Making These 4 Errors with Health Care Data?

errors health care dataThe United States wastes $275 billion annually on health care spending through inefficient record-keeping, duplicated files, fraud or abuse, according to Truven Health Analytics. Nearly $9,000 per second is lost on illegible writing, incomplete entries or inaccurate interpretations of data.[i]

In this era of massive data generation, how can companies ensure accurate analyses of their employees’ population health? Here are four common data errors to avoid:

1. Making business decisions based on “uncleansed” data.

Electronic health records today overflow with complex treatments, prescriptions, lab results and other tests. Incorrect synthesis of these outcomes can obscure a 360-degree view of past medical history and future potential problems.

MedCost creates detailed reporting with Deerwalk software to help clients identify both medical and financial trends. Sophisticated analytics identify areas of data where misinterpretation may occur. When data is integrated and “scrubbed,” employers may then be assured of making accurate decisions based on those results.

 2. Assuming that claims are processed correctly.

Data integrity is key to avoiding skewed results. Were monthly premiums accidentally included in claim expenses? Have claims been duplicated? Were pharmacy costs integrated with the right patient’s claim?

errors health care dataNo one would try to calibrate a car’s multiple computer systems without the right training and equipment. Not using standard query entries will produce data sets of unreliable results for financial and medical decisions. The company that manages your health plan benefits should do rigorous quality assurance audits before releasing “cleansed” data to you.

3. Failing to use technology to protect your group of covered members.

The operating rule of today’s digital health care is that if it can’t be measured, it can’t be managed. How can a company uncover excessive medical costs or emerging health issues for employees, unless clinical and claims data is tracked?

Smart businesses track profit and loss columns. Smart businesses also keep a close eye on cost trends to reduce medical spend and improve population health for employees. MedCost as a benefits administrator delivers monthly reports with specific cost analyses and recommendations to each of our clients.

4. Ignoring cost trends that are wasting your health care dollars.

Health care, despite the tsunami of data generated, is still about people. How can an employer know when an employee’s blood pressure is out of control? When blood glucose levels have gone sky-high? When prescribed meds are no longer being taken? Without careful analysis of gaps in care, expensive treatments won’t be avoided. And employee health conditions may worsen that could also have been prevented.

errors health care dataAre these errors with your health care data costing your company thousands of dollars? Consider using quality analysis by a reputable benefits administrator to clarify complex data, while managing population health and more efficient health care spending.

Download our free white paper, “Transforming Data into Dollars, with proven practices of how employers can achieve cost-effective outcomes and healthier employees.MedCost

 

[i] “Claims Audit Solutions,” Truven Health Analytics™, http://truvenhealth.com/portals/0/assets/emp_12181_0113_auditsuiteoverviewbrochure.pdf (accessed April 13, 2017).

Judge Issues National Injunction Against Certain ACA Rule 1557 Provisions

michael-berwanger-109-by-192By Michael Berwanger, JD, Director, Quality Management & Compliance

On December 31, 2016, Judge Reed O’Connor of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas entered a nationwide injunction in Franciscan Alliance v. Burwell. The order prohibited the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from enforcing certain provisions of its nondiscrimination rule promulgated under ACA section 1557, namely those that prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or termination of pregnancy.

The remaining provisions of the rule—prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability, race, color, age, national origin, or sex other than gender identity—are in effect as scheduled, mostly beginning January 1, 2017.

MedCost published a summary of Section 1557 here. HHS has published a summary here and FAQs here. Section 1557 applies antidiscrimination laws to entities receiving assistance under certain federal agencies. These rules have required various plan changes from self-funded plans to implement the protections afforded under the rules.

ACA rule 1557In the December 31 ruling, Judge O’Connor stated that “[w]hile this lawsuit involves many issues of great importance—state sovereignty, expanded healthcare coverage, anti-discrimination protections, and medical judgment—ultimately, the question before the Court is whether Defendants exceeded their authority under the ACA in the challenged regulations’ interpretation of sex discrimination and whether the regulation violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as applied to Private Plaintiffs.”

Finding that HHS exceeded its authority under the ACA, he enjoined the agency from enforcing the provisions of Section 1557 regarding plan changes for nondiscrimination on the basis of gender identity and pregnancy termination until further judicial or legislative action.

For more information about Section 1557, consult your broker, legal advisor or the Department of Health and Human Services.MedCost

This blog post should not be considered as legal advice.

ACA Reporting Due Early 2017

ACA DeadlinesBy Michael Berwanger, JD, Director, Quality Management & Compliance

In early 2017, employers and insurance carriers must report information to employees and the IRS about coverage offered to employees under employer-sponsored health plans during calendar year 2016.

Background

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires self-funded employers to satisfy two reporting obligations under Sections 6055 and 6056 of the Internal Revenue Code, relating to health coverage offered to employees and about those employees who are covered under the plan.

The purpose of the reporting obligations is to allow the IRS access to data needed to monitor compliance with both the employer and individual mandates. The reporting also may be used by affected employees in assessing their own compliance with the individual mandate and/or in seeking subsidized coverage on the federal and state exchanges established under the ACA (as described in this blog post).

Section 60ACA reporting55 Reporting Compliance

Under Section 6055 of the Internal Revenue Code, all self-funded employers must annually report information to the IRS and to any individual who is covered under a health plan offered by the employer.

Currently, many employers do not have access to Social Security numbers for non-employed dependents, creating a fairly significant compliance burden to collect that data. The regulations require that employers exercise “reasonable collection efforts” to obtain that information. (Typically, an employer will satisfy that standard by documenting at least two efforts to request the data from those individuals). This same information must be reported to employees, along with basic contact information for the employer.

Section 6056 Reporting Compliance

The second reporting obligation, under Code Section 6056, applies only to “Applicable Large Employers.” Applicable Large Employers are those employers with at least 50 full-time equivalent employees and to whom the ACA’s employer mandate applies.

Unlike Section 6055 reporting, all of this information also must be provided separately to each employee, full-time, part-time, or otherwise. You can read helpful IRS guidance about 6056 reporting here.

IRS Forms 1094 and 1095

The compliance obligations are complex, and the IRS has developed forms (Forms 1094-B, 1095-B, 1094-C, and 1095-C) to provide consistency in reporting and to help simplify the process for employers.

Applicable Large Employers (ALEs) who offer coverage under a self-funded health plan may use Form 1095-C, which combines the reporting obligations of Sections 6055 and 6056 in a single form for reporting to both the IRS and individuals. When the forms are provided to the IRS, the Applicable Large Employer also must submit a transmittal form, Form 1094-C. Forms 1095-C and 1094-C, along with instructions, can be accessed here.

Small employers with fewer than 50 full-time equivalent employees are only required to meet one of the reporting obligations, the Minimum Essential Coverage reporting under Section 6055. Small employers may use Form 1095-B, with transmittal Form 1094-B. These forms, along with instructions, can be accessed onACA reporting the IRS web site here.

Changes from reporting year 2015 to 2016 for forms 1094-C and 1095-C can be found here.

Changes from reporting year 2015 to 2016 for forms 1094-B and 1095-B can be found here.

Compliance Deadline

Filings will begin in early 2017 for the 2016 calendar year.

*Form 1095-C must be provided to all employees (full-time, part-time, or otherwise) by March 2, 2017.

*All Forms 1095-C, along with the transmittal form, 1094-C, must be provided to the IRS by February 28, 2017 (if in paper form), or March 31, 2017 (if filed electronically). 

Note: Employers filing more than 250 information returns (Form 1095-C) must do so electronically.MedCost

To print this article, click on the title and scroll to “PRINT THIS PAGE” at the bottom.

2016 ACA Employer Deadlines Extended

2016 ACA Employer Deadlines

By Michael Berwanger, JD, Director, Quality Management & Compliance

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released Notice 2016-70, which extends the due date for furnishing to individuals the 2016 Form 1095-B (titled Health Coverage), and the 2016 Form 1095-C (titled Employer-Provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage), from January 31, 2017 to March 2, 2017.

Self-funded employers should note that the filing deadlines remain unchanged. The Notice states that the “Treasury and the [Internal Revenue] Service have determined that there is no similar need for additional time for employers, insurers, and other providers of minimum essential coverage to file with the Service the 2016 Forms 1094-B, 1095-B, 1094-C, and 1095-C.”

Employer Deadlines

Therefore, the due dates for filing 2016 Forms 1094-B, 1095-B, 1094-C, and 1095-C with the IRS remain:

February 28, 2017 (for paper filing)

March 31, 2017 (for e-filing)

Employers may obtain a 30-day extension for filing with the IRS by filing Form 8809 on or before the forms’ due date.

The IRS has also extended last year’s good-faith transition relief for inaccurate information on the forms. Recognizing the “challenges involved in developing new procedures and systems to accurately collect and report information in compliance with new reporting requirements,” the IRS has provided relief to incorrect and incomplete information reported on the statement or return.

Please note: The good-faith relief applies only to data on the forms, not failure to comply with due dates.MedCost

 

5 More Tips for a Smooth Open Enrollment

open enrollmentDoes open enrollment for your Human Resources department seem like “Nightmare on Employment Street?” Our first post listed five practical tips to streamline the open enrollment period for annual benefits. Check out these five additional best practices to chase the confusion away:

 1. Make sure you provide all of the data requested by your claims administrator.

Inaccurate or incomplete data can result in time-consuming, frustrating mistakes. Remember to enter information exactly as provided in previous enrollments. Unique and accurate identifying information must be entered for each dependent.

 2. Collect waiver forms from your employees.

For ACA reporting and Department of Labor requirements, you as the employer need to keep proof of waived coverage on file. Here is a Compliance Assistance Guide from the U. S. Department of Labor that offers more information. MedCost provides our clients with a generic form as part of our benefits’ services, if clients do not have one.

3. If you submit updated enrollment data on paper forms or by spreadsheet, information on new hires, changes, and terminations is all that is needed.

It may seem counterintuitive, but full enrollment data is not required and can actually slow down the input process for your claims administrator.

Note: This does not apply to clients that electronically submit enrollment data via 834 transaction. 

4. When open enrollment is over, it’s over—no extensions.

health insurance noticesStick with the open enrollment deadline you set. Announce the deadline and remind employees of it several times during the open enrollment period. It is then the employees’ responsibility to complete the required enrollment process by the deadline. Remember, open enrollment is a finite time period, not an ongoing process.

5. Once you’ve collected enrollment data, submit it all at one time.

Submitting information piecemeal or in multiple spreadsheets that have to be merged or compared to previous submissions only increases the chance for errors. Avoid confusion with one complete submission of enrollment data.

Don’t let your open enrollment become a nightmare. Competent claims administrators can help advise you of all compliance requirements and deadlines. And turn your nightmares into sweet dreams.MedCost

Got Employees? 5 Tips for a Smooth Open Enrollment

open enrollmentIt’s that time of the year that presents headaches for HR professionals and admin staff—open enrollment. But your company’s benefits administration doesn’t have to resemble a Halloween Fright Night. Here are five best practices to streamline your employees’ enrollment period and leave you with a basket of sweet candy:

1. Create a realistic schedule for open enrollment by beginning with the end in mind.

Your open enrollment period should end no later than 30 days prior to the end of your plan year or renewal date. Once you determine the ending date of open enrollment, back up from there to schedule open enrollment meetings, print forms or materials, distribute or mail open enrollment packets, etc.

2. Collect all required information for each plan participant (employee or dependent).

This may include information for each plan participant such as:

  •  Last Name, First Name and Middle Initial (exactly as provided in previous enrollments)
  •  Social Security Number (unique and accurate identifying information for each dependent)
  •  Address
  •  Date of Birth (unique and accurate identifying information for each dependent)
  •  Gender
  •  Hire Date (if an employee)
  •  Coverage Effective Date
  •  Product Coverage (Medical, Dental, Flex)
  •  Date of Termination, if applicable, and Reason for Term
       (especially needed for COBRA)
  •  E-mail address (useful to promote programs and services available through benefits plan)

3. Remind employees that “good data in equals good data out.”

open enrollmentStress the importance of completing all fields on any enrollment or waiver forms. It’s in every plan participant’s best interest to review and verify new and existing data during open enrollment since it directly affects coverage for the upcoming plan year. Decisions regarding participants’ eligibility and coverage under the health plan—as well as that of their dependents—are made based on the information provided during open enrollment.

4. Educate employees about the “not-so-flexible” guidelines of flexible spending accounts (FSAs), if available through your plan.

In addition to the advantages of flexible spending accounts, make sure your employees also know about the guidelines for FSAs. The most important thing for employees to remember is that FSAs are “use it or lose it” accounts. Contributions made to an FSA during a calendar year can be used only for eligible expenses incurred during the same year—unless your plan provides for either a grace period or a carryover. If your plan doesn’t provide for a carryover, employees need to be aware that any money remaining in an FSA account after the claim filing period at the end of the year (and after the grace period, if applicable) is forfeited in accordance with IRS regulations.

5. If your employees have flex debit cards, remind them to save all receipts for purchases made with the card.

open enrollmentSince a flex debit card deducts payment for an eligible health care expense directly from an FSA account, employees may think that saving health care receipts is unnecessary. Some claims for reimbursement, however, may require substantiation. Encourage employees to save all receipts for flex debit card purchases in case they receive a substantiation request or their tax return is audited by the IRS. Employees should hold on to their cards even if the allocated FSA total amount has already been used.

Our next blog will contain five more tips to plan and prepare for open enrollment like a pro. Subscribe to our blog to receive it automatically!*

 

*To sign up for the blog, go to the left margin under “STAY UP TO DATE.” The only requirement is your email address. 

 

5 Key Definitions in Health Plans

How many of the terms in this example below do your employees understand? If you’re getting blank stares over words like “co-insurance” and “out-of-pocket limit,” it’s time to educate your staff before open enrollment starts for the next plan year.

definitions health plans

Source: Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services

 

Five Key Terms

Only 12% of American adults have a basic understanding of the terms used in their health plans.[i] As more health plans are transitioning to some type of Consumer-Driven Health Plan (CDHP), it is more vital than ever for employees to understand basic terms that identify their responsibilities for payment.

Here are five easy definitions for HR professionals to use when explaining your company health plan:

  1. Deductible

The amount an employee owes for health care services before the health indefinitions health planssurance or plan begins to pay. For example, if a deductible is $1,500 as in Jane’s example above, the plan won’t pay anything until a $1,500 deductible for covered health care services is met. The deductible may not apply to all services.[ii]

2. Co-payment

A fixed amount (e.g., $25) that an employee pays for a covered health care service, usually when service is received. The amount can vary by the type of covered health care service. Co-payments are more familiar in traditional plans such as Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs).

3. Network

The facilities, providers and suppliers your health plan has contracted with to provide health care services. So in-network services or providers have already negotiated a billing rate that would be applied.

Out-of-network charges are usually more expensive, because no rate has been contracted with that doctor’s office or provider.

4. Out-of-Pocket Limitemployee deductibles

The most an employee pays during a policy period (usually a year). This limit usually includes deductibles, copays and/or co-insurance. Premiums, balance-billed charges or health care not specified in the plan would not be included.

5. Co-insurance

An employee’s share of the costs of a covered health care service, calculated as a percent (for example, 20%) of the allowed amount for the service.

In the example above, after Jane met her deductible ($1,500), her plan began to pay 80% of qualified health expenses. Jane’s part of the payment (co-insurance) was 20%, paid until Jane’s total expenses for the year hit her $5,000 out-of-pocket limit.

After Jane had paid a total of $5,000, her plan paid all other expenses for the rest of the plan year.

 

Equip Your Employeesdefinitions health plans

As HR departments approach a new year, health plan terms may still sound like a language most employees don’t know. Equip your employees to make decisions they will feel good about so they can better manage those vital health care dollars.MedCost

 

 

[i] Quick Guide to Health Literacy Fact Sheet,http://health.gov/communication/literacy/quickguide/factsbasic.htm (accessed September 13, 2016)

[ii] Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services https://www.cms.gov/CCIIO/resources/files/downloads/uniform-glossary-final.pdf (accessed September 13, 2016)

 

To print this article, click on the title and scroll to “PRINT THIS PAGE” at the bottom.

It’s Time to Plan ACA Reinsurance Payments

By Michael Berwanger, JD, Director, Quality Management & Compliance

 

shutterstock_68891791It is time for employer-sponsored health plans to begin thinking about the process for calculation and submission of enrollment data and payment of fees under the Transitional Reinsurance Program.

As background, this program was established to fund a reinsurance pool to help stabilize premiums in the insurance markets created under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The program is being funded by three annual assessments on employer-sponsored health plans. The assessments are for average covered lives in 2014, 2015 and 2016 calendar years.

This year, enrollment data must be submitted by November 15, 2016, and payment must be submitted no later than January 17, 2017.

The 2016 Reinsurance Contribution Rate is $27.00 per covered life.

Online Submission Process

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has implemented a streamlined process for reinsurancethe collection of reinsurance contributions. A contributing entity, or a Third Party Administrator (TPA) on its behalf, can complete all required steps for the reinsurance contributions process online (using the government portal, pay.gov), including registration, submission of annual enrollment count, and remittance of contributions.

A form is available for the contributing entity (or its TPA) to provide basic company and contact information and the annual enrollment count for the applicable year. The form will automatically calculate the contribution amounts, and entities will be required to submit payment information and schedule a payment date for remittance of the contributions.

CMS will not send an invoice to contributing entities. All required action will be completed online at pay.gov.

Options for Payment

There are two options for how a contributing entity can make a payment: (1) a one-time lump sum payment, or (2) a full contribution in two payments. (See chart below.)

Contribution Payment Options for the 2016 Benefit Year

Reinsurance

Source: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

CMS will permit contributing entities to submit each year’s contribution in two separate payments – one larger payment of $21.60 per covered life at the start of the year, and a smaller payment of $5.40 per covered life at the end of the year.

However, when submitting enrollment data, dates must immediately be scheduled for payment of the fees, whether there will be one payment prior to January 17, 2017, or two payments with the later in November 2017.

If You Are Self-funded for a Portion of the Reporting Period

health insurance noticesFor a plan that has moved from a fully insured plan to a self-funded plan during the first nine months of the 2016 calendar year, both plans will be responsible for paying a portion of the fee, using one of the permitted calculation methods.

Since fully-insured plans are not permitted to use the Snapshot Factor Method of calculation, either the Actual Count Method or the Snapshot Method of calculation must be used.

Helpful Resources

This site provides technical assistance and training related to the Marketplace and Premium Stabilization program (which includes the Transitional Reinsurance Program). Webinars are offered that provide entities with information on program and operational guidance, along with live demos of the enrollment count and contributions submission process.

This is the site where the contributing entity, or TPA, will create a profile, and submit the enrollment data and contributions for the Transitional Reinsurance Program.

This website is hosted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid to provide information about the Transitional Reinsurance Program.

For more information, consult your broker, legal advisor or cms.gov. MedCost

This blog post should not be considered as legal advice.

 

To print this article, click on the title and scroll to “PRINT THIS PAGE” at the bottom.

Is Your Health Plan Affected by the Cadillac Tax?

One-Fourth of Employers Now Offering CDHPs to Avoid Tax

Employers continue to take action to avoid the looming excise or “Cadillac” tax on more expensive health insurance for their employees. This Affordable Care Act tax of 40% annually is currently set to take effect in 2020, but it is already having a major impact.

A 2015 Mercer study found that total health benefits cost averaged $11,635 per employee.[i] Cadillac taxThis average amount exceeds the Cadillac tax’s threshold of $10,200 for individuals, and would trigger the 40% tax on benefits above the threshold. And small employers are seeing higher increases in medical, dental and other health benefits than large employers.

Employers Turn to
Consumer Plans                                             

For the first time, 25% of covered employees are now enrolled in Consumer-Driven Health Plans (CDHP). Large employers of 20,000 or more employees have added CDHPs the fastest (73%). A projected 34% of employers with 50+ employees will be subject to the excise tax in 2020 if they make no changes to their current health plans.

 Cadillac tax

 

High-Deductible Health Plans (HDHP) are a type of Consumer-Driven Health Plans. Employers are saving an average of 18% with an HSA-eligible HDHP instead of a traditional Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plan.[ii]

One key reason that employees are researching medical costs in advance for services such as maternity care, joint replacements and Emergency Room visits. A 2015 Consumer Health Insights’ survey showed that 22% always talked to others about costs or searched websites for information.[iii]

Employees who have a telemedicine option in their health plans can choose a more appropriate level of Cadillac taxcare for certain respiratory infections, fevers and nausea (see “Treatment Alternatives to the Emergency Room”). Choosing the right level of care reduces time away from work, boosting productivity. And employees save unnecessary dollars from their own pockets.

Some employers offer pricing transparency tools such as HealtheReports™ which compares costs for a complete procedure. Employees can review local facilities that offer mammograms, colonoscopies, X-rays and other services. HealtheReports also lists comments from members about their recommendations for health care organizations.

A New Era in Health Care

CDHP plans require a shift in thinking about medical spending. In traditional plans, employees are used to handing over their insurance card and paying a small copay.

PiggyBankIt can come as a jolt to employees to realize that CDHP coverage begins with paying expenses up to a higher deductible before insurance kicks in. For this reason, employers must proactively educate employees when introducing CDHP options.

Our next blog will detail key steps for employers to take in providing tools for smart decision-making. Employers who can manage staff expectations with a balanced understanding of the changing health care industry will build a productive partnership with your team.MedCost

 

[i] “With the Excise Tax in Their Sights, Employers Hold Health Benefits Cost Growth to 3.8% in 2015,” Mercer Global, November 19, 2015, http://www.mercer.com/newsroom/national-survey-of-employer-sponsored-health-plans-2015.html (accessed August 8, 2016)

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] “Debunking Common Myths about Healthcare Consumerism,” McKinsey & Company, December 2015, http://www.mckinsey.com/industries/healthcare-systems-and-services/our-insights/debunking-common-myths-about-healthcare-consumerism (accessed August 11, 2016)

HHS Nondiscrimination Rule: FAQs

By Michael Berwanger, JD, Director, Quality Management & Compliance

medicalOn May 18, 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published a final rule (the “Rule”) to implement Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which prohibits discrimination in health coverage and care based on race, color, national origin, age, disability, and sex.

Notably, the Rule:

  • Extends protections against sex discrimination to health coverage and care for the first time, including gender identity discrimination within the definition of sex discrimination;
  •  Implements guidance regarding meaningful access for individuals with Limited English Proficiency, including the provision of free, accurate, and timely language assistance services;
  •  Incorporates existing law that requires reasonable modifications, effective communication, and readily accessible buildings and information technology to avoid disability-based discrimination; and
  •   Prohibits discriminatory health insurance benefit designs and includes specific coverage protections for transgender individuals.

ACA, health insurance, health exchangesHHS has published a useful FAQ here summarizing some of the key aspects of Section 1557. The following Q&A helps explain who the Rule applies to, how the Rule protects against discrimination, and how the Rule impacts coverage offered by self-funded health plans.

I. Who does the Rule apply to?

The Rule applies to (i) every health program or activity that receives Federal financial assistance from HHS; (ii) health programs administered by HHS, and (iii) federally-facilitated and state-based marketplaces established under the Affordable Care Act.

Some examples of types of entities that are subject to the Rule include but are not limited to: physician practices, hospitals, health clinics, health insurance programs, state Medicaid agencies, community health centers, home health care agencies, the Health Insurance Marketplaces, or employers offering employee health benefit programs (in certain circumstances).

How does this impact religious organizations?

The Rule does not include a blanket religious exemption related to Section 1557’s general prohibition against sex discrimination. However, HHS stated that “[e]xisting laws protecting religious freedom and belief, including provider conscience laws, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the ACA’s provisions regarding abortion services, and the ACA’s preventive health services regulations, continue to apply.”

It may be prudent to consult with your legal counsel if you think your organization may qualify for a religious exemption.

EEOC, employer wellness program, wellness program, ACA, GINA
II. When does this take effect for a health plan?

Provisions of the Rule that require changes in plan benefit design take effect in the first plan year on or after January 1, 2017.

III. What does the Rule prohibit?

Under Section 1557, covered entities may not take the following actions on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability:

  • Deny, cancel, limit, or refuse to issue or renew a health insurance policy;
  • Deny or limit coverage of a health insurance claim;
  • Impose additional cost sharing or other limitations or restrictions on coverage; or
  • Use discriminatory marketing practices or insurance benefit designs.

The Rule maintains that while health plans cannot have coverage policies that operate in a discriminatory manner, they still may apply medical necessity rules when determining covered benefits.

HHS clarified that they do not affirmatively require covered entities to cover any particular treatment, as long as the basis for exclusion is evidence based and nondiscriminatory.

What about gender transition services? Are health plans required to cover those services?

If a company is a covered entity under the Rule, not subject to an exception such as the religious exemptions, and the gender transition service is determined to be medically necessary, then it is likely that the service must be covered by the plan. Note that HHS declined to specifically require a gender transition provision.

However, covered entity plans are prevented from discriminating in the provision of benefits based on employer benefit planssex. As such, services such as transition-related services may be subject to medical necessity requirements, but the process for determining medical necessity must also be nondiscriminatory.

For example, HHS stated “[t]he range of transition-related services, which includes treatment for gender dysphoria, is not limited to surgical treatments and may include, but is not limited to, services such as hormone therapy and psychotherapy, which may occur over the lifetime of the individual. We believe the flexibility of the general language in the final rule best serves transgender individuals and covered entities.”

Note that, as mentioned above, the Rule does not affirmatively require covered entities to cover any particular procedure or treatment for transition-related care. The Rule also does not preclude a covered entity from applying neutral standards that govern the circumstances in which it will offer coverage to all its enrollees in a nondiscriminatory manner.

IV. What changes happened regarding sex discrimination?

Section 1557 and HHS’s final regulations, for the first time, extend protections against discrimination based on sex to health coverage and care. Now, covered entities must provide individuals equal accesspregnancy, pregnancies, high risk pregnancy to health programs and activities without discrimination based on sex, including but not limited to pregnancy, false pregnancy, termination of pregnancy, recovery from childbirth or related medical conditions.

Significantly, HHS extended the term “gender identity” to include gender expression, non-binary gender identities, and transgender status.

V. How will this impact the coverage offered under a Plan?

The Rule does not affirmatively require covered entities to cover any particular procedure or treatment for transition-related care. However, the Rule includes specific protections for transgender individuals and prohibits discriminatory practices. Specifically, HHS stated that “we do not affirmatively require covered entities to cover any particular treatment, as long as the basis for exclusion is evidence based and nondiscriminatory.”

DoctorNote that HHS specified a limited exception to the requirement that covered entities treat individuals consistent with their gender identity: that a covered entity may not deny or limit health services that are ordinarily or exclusively available to individuals of one sex or gender based on the fact that the individual’s sex assigned at birth, gender identity, or gender in a medical or health insurance plan record differs from the one to which such health services are ordinarily or exclusively available. HHS provided the following example:

“[A] covered entity may not deny an individual treatment for ovarian cancer where the individual could benefit medically from the treatment, based on the individual’s identification as a transgender male. HHS notes that blanket exclusions of all gender transition services, which historically have been used by some Medicaid programs and health insurers, are now recognized as outdated and not based on current standards of care.”

VI. When must covered entities post a notice regarding their non-discrimination policies?

Covered entities must post a notice by October 16, 2016, containing certain elements as required by HHS, as described at 45 CFR 92.8. Notices must be available to beneficiaries, enrollees, applicants, and members of the public. They must be printed in a conspicuously visible font and included in significant communications (such as handbooks and outreach publications), in conspicuous physical locations where the entity interacts with the public, and in a conspicuous location on the covered entity’s website accessible from the homepage. HHS has published a sample notice and nondiscrimination statement.

VII. Will covered entities need to implement a grievance procedure specificemployee benefit plans to Section 1557, and if so, are there special considerations or guidelines?

        Covered entities that employ at least 15 people must adopt a grievance procedure that incorporates appropriate due process standards and provides prompt and equitable resolution of grievances under Section 1557.

HHS and covered entities with more than 15 employees also must designate at least one employee to coordinate the entity’s efforts to carry out Section 1557 responsibilities, including the investigation of grievances. The Rule includes a sample grievance procedure.To ensure compliance with Section 1557, HHS will provide covered entities with a training curriculum on key provisions of the rule.

For more information about Section 1557, consult your broker, legal advisor or the Department of Health and Human Services.MedCost 

 

This blog post should not be considered as legal advice.