10 Terms You Need to Know in Self-Insured Health Plans

Confused by all the “insurance-speak” in your company health plan? Here’s a quick guide for phrases in benefit plans for self-insured employers.


self-insured

WATCH VIDEO HERE

Self-Insured: What Does It Mean?

1 Self-Insured: Also called self-funding. Employers choose this model of funding to pay for health claims from company assets and employee premiums. Self-insurance allows employers to pay only for actual claims, instead of the fixed premiums of fully-insured plans. A 2013 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation noted three of five covered employees are in self-insured health plans.[1]

2 ERISA: Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, passed by Congress to establish federal regulations for self-funded benefit plans. Self-funded employers avoid fees such as the Health Insurance Provider Fee,[2] Risk Adjustment Fee[3] and Federally Facilitated Exchange User FeeSelf-funded employers also avoid certain state premium taxes.

3 SPD: Summary Plan Description that lists health plan terms and conditions, written for a particular employer or organization. The SPD defines the benefit coverage and exclusions. MedCost ensures that coverage and exclusions mirror the stop loss contract. If the stop loss contract does not mirror benefits offered, the employer may have to pay claims that were not covered by the stop loss carrier.

Fixed Vs. Variable Cost

self-insured

4 Fixed Cost: Predetermined fees that are paid as part of a health plan, regardless of actual expenses. Fully-insured plans are 100% fixed cost, paid out in set premium rates to the carrier. Self-insured fixed costs range from 18%—21% of total plan costs for administrative fees and stop loss insurance.

5 Variable Cost: Also called soft dollars, which may translate into potential savings for a self-funded employer. Prudent employers deposit funds for the total estimated employee claims into a reserve account in the company’s name. These dedicated funds remain in the employer’s account for future medical expenses if not spent during a plan year. MedCost provides professional underwriting services to help employers ensure that they are adequately covered for both expected and unexpected claims.

6 Corridor: Also known as claims or risk corridor, or margin. Underwriters include this as a cushion to cover unexpected claims. Generally this amount is around 25% for self-funded plans and 20% for fully-insured plans. Expected claims plus risk corridor (for variable expenses) determine the maximum liability (or attachment point).

Stop Loss Insurance

7 Stop Loss Insurance: Coverage designed to protect self-funded employers from the risk of catastrophic claims beyond a predetermined liability. MedCost underwriters recommend policies with consistency between the stop loss policy and the employer’s SPD, to avoid any gaps in coverage when claims are submitted.[4]

8 Specific Stop Loss Deductible: The limit of liability under stop loss coverage on an individual employee covered under an employer’s heath care plan. The employer chooses this amount based on total group size and selected risk tolerance.

Stop Loss Coverage Specific Example

Self-insured
Jane Smith suffers from renal failure and undergoes kidney dialysis. Her claims total $300,000. Jane’s employer is self-funded and has purchased specific stop loss with a $75,000 deductible.

Total Claim $300,000
Employer Deductible $75,000
Amount Reimbursed by Stop Loss Carrier $225,000

9 Aggregate Stop Loss Deductible: This amount is the self-funded employer’s overall or group liability under a stop loss policy. Underwriters typically project expected claims plus a 25% margin to determine an employer’s maximum liability (or attachment point).

Stop Loss Coverage Aggregate Example

self-insured

  • Includes claims paid that do not exceed the specific deductible
  • When underwritten appropriately, expenses should approach the amount of expected claims ($4 million), rather than the maximum liability ($5 million)
Expected claims $4,000,000
25% Margin $1,000,000
Maximum Claims Liability $5,000,000

10 Benefits Administrator: Also called a third party administrator (TPA) or administrative services organization (ASO). Employers typically contract with an administrator to handle benefits plan documents, claims payments and provide other services. Experienced administrative companies like MedCost can preserve significant savings for employers through careful management of resources, with customized benefits and targeted products to meet employer needs.

We’ve spent over 30 years in the industry. We know health care choices are complicated and not getting any simpler.

Questions?

Have questions? Contact your health care consultant or Jason at MedCost for more resources.


 

[1] “2013 Employer Health Benefits Survey,” Kaiser Family Foundation, August 20, 2013, http://kff.org/report-section/ehbs-2013-section-10/

[2] “Affordable Care Act Provision 9010, Health Insurance Providers Fee,” http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Corporations/Affordable-Care-Act-Provision-9010

[3] “Explaining Health Care Reform: Risk Adjustment, Reinsurance, and Risk Corridors,” Kaiser Family Foundation, January 22, 2014, http://kff.org/health-reform/issue-brief/explaining-health-care-reform-risk-adjustment-reinsurance-and-risk-corridors/

[4] For more information, download Stop Loss Coverage White Paper: Maximizing Benefits, Limiting Risk

Telemedicine: Yes, There’s a Doctor in the House

telehealth A sick child might have a fever at 3:00 am. Or the family might be visiting grandparents a long way from home. But if an employer-sponsored health plan includes telemedicine services, a board-certified doctor’s consultation is only a phone call away.

Employers Are Choosing Telemedicine

An overwhelming 96% of US employers plan to offer telemedicine services in applicable states* in 2018, the National Business Group on Health reports. The reasons for this rapidly growing health benefit are obvious:

  1. Quick ResponseTeladoc, the nation’s largest provider of telemedicine consultations, averages 22 minutes for a call-back from a licensed, board-certified doctor who practices in the caller’s state.
  2. Convenience. This consultation can be held by phone or online. Teladoc requests some medical information before having the doctor return the call.
  3. Appropriate Care for Less. Almost 80% of adult Emergency Room visits are due to lack of access to other providers.** Access to telemedicine visits can limit hours spent away from work, as well as more expensive care at any hour, day or night.

Telemedicine Offers Treatment Alternatives

Telemedicine consultations are not meant to replace primary care providers. But if an employee has one of the minor ailments listed below, 24/7 access is convenient, and reduces spiraling costs for the employer and the employee.

Treatment Alternatives to the Emergency Room

Telemedicine

Common conditions treated through a telemedicine phone call or online visit are:

  • Infections
  • Allergies
  • Pain
  • Minor joint trauma
  • Gastroenteritis (stomach flu)

Telemedicine Services Are Expanding

Teladoc has expanded optional services for employer health plans to include behavioral health. If an employer chooses to add this option, experienced psychiatrists, therapists and counselors would be available at a flat, per-encounter fee. Members can choose to see the same provider throughout the course of care.

Behavioral health conditions*** range from:

  • Stress/anxiety
  • Depression
  • Addiction
  • Domestic abuse
  • Grief counseling

Just a Phone Call Away

Need a better prescription for your health care expenses? Expert care from area doctors may be available with a phone call, whether on vacation at Disney World or in pajamas at 3:00 a.m.

With telemedicine services, there is a doctor in the house.MedCost

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*Teladoc operates subject to state regulation and may not be available in certain states.

**“Emergency Room Use Among Adults Aged 18-64: Early Release of Estimates from the National Health Interview Survey, January-June 2011.” National Center for Health Statistics. May 2012. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhis/releases.htm (accessed October 31, 2017).

***Consult your employer’s summary plan description for complete coverage details.

Too Few Patients Follow The Adage: You Better Shop Around

By Michelle Andrews, Kaiser Health News

shop medical costs

Despite having more financial “skin in the game” than ever, many consumers don’t make any attempt to compare prices for health care services, a newly released study found.

In a survey of nearly 3,000 adults younger than 65, about half of the roughly 1,900 who said they spent money on medical care in the previous year reported that they knew in advance what their costs would be. Of those who didn’t anticipate how much they would owe before receiving care, only 13 percent said they tried to predict their out-of-pocket expenses. An even smaller proportion, 3 percent, compared prices from multiple providers ahead of time.

It wasn’t that survey respondents were ignorant of price differences or didn’t care about them. More than 90 percent said they believed that prices vary greatly among providers, and 71 percent said that the amount they spent out-of-pocket was important or very important when choosing a doctor.

Yet most respondents said they didn’t comparison shop or even ask how much they would owe in copayments or other cost-sharing expenses before they turned up for an appointment.

Researchers conducted the online survey in February and March of 2015, dividing respondents into three groups: uninsured, insured in a plan with an annual deductible higher than $1,250 for single coverage or $2,500 for family coverage, or insured in a plan with a lower deductible or no deductible. The results were published in the August issue of Health Affairs.

Three-quarters of the study participants said they did not know of any resource that would allow them to compare costs, while half said that if a website showing such information were available, they would use it.

“If price shopping is an important policy goal, it will be necessary to increase the availability of information on price and decrease the complexity of accessing the information,” the researchers wrote. They noted that patients trying to figure out pricing information and their share of the cost must often know specific procedures’ billing codes, the difference between professional fees and facility fees, and the details of how their insurance plan is structured.

“Our results emphasize that simply passing price transparency laws or regulations (as over half of states have done) appears insufficient to facilitate price shopping,” they added.

Most respondents said they did not think there was a relationship between lower cost and lower quality.

shop medical costsOne reason for the lack of shopping activity may be that consumers value the ongoing relationship they have with an existing doctor and don’t want to disrupt that, said Neeraj Sood, professor of public policy at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and one of the study’s authors.

Another possible explanation is that despite efforts by states, employers and insurers to make price information readily available, shopping for health care services is nowhere near as user-friendly and intuitive as buying something on Amazon or Expedia.

“Maybe right now these tools are so primitive that even though there is a financial incentive to shop, people aren’t doing it,” Sood said.

People surveyed were most likely to search out prices before going to a retail or urgent care clinic compared with other care facilities. Consumers who received physical therapy or lab and imaging services were more likely than others to comparison shop for providers, the survey found.

 

Please visit khn.org/columnists to send comments or ideas for future topics for the Insuring Your Health column. Kaiser Health News, a nonprofit health newsroom whose stories appear in news outlets nationwide, is an editorially independent part of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Listening to the Voice of the Customer (Video)

Health care is complex. It always has been — even more so today in a continually changing industry and environment. MedCost strives to be the kind of partner that helps our customers navigate, translate and adapt to those changes.

When MedCost started as a small company, we were still using some of the principles we use today. We were sitting down and listening to the unique needs of the customer. We were using data even before there were sophisticated mechanisms to use data. To understand what was driving their costs, what providers they were utilizing, how we can essentially customize some sort of solution, whether it be a product, a program or a service to essentially help them better manage or to achieve what they were trying to achieve with their health plan.

In this time, in this industry, collaboration is more important than ever. We have a legal team, a communications team, a pharmacist, an underwriting team — all designed to essentially help support the employers, and bring some of the best new ideas to the employer to help them engage in new or better health and wellness programs. And also to drive lower costs for their population.

We essentially try to be one single source for an employer to come and partner with them — to not only design but to administer their health plans.

We’re interested in your unique needs. Contact Jason at jclarke@medcost.com or call 336.774.4283.MedCost

(This post is a transcript from the video, “Listening to the Voice of the Customer.” )

5 Factors in Employer Prescription Drug Costs

Why are employer prescription drug costs spiraling higher every year?

“There are a combination of factors,” said Zafeira Sarrimanolis, PharmD, MedCost Pharmacist and Clinical Consultant. “This is a major problem for employers who do not want to make employees unhappy by instituting clinical pharmacy programs in their health plans.”

employer prescription drug costs


What Are the Factors in Employer Prescription Drug Costs?

  1. Manufacturer Price Hikes.

    Costs for drugs like EpiPen® and Humira® have been widely publicized.[i] Prices are escalating 16-17% per year. Manufacturers are also promoting new uses for existing high-cost drugs, even though there are already FDA-approved, lower-priced drugs for the same conditions already on the market.

  2. Increased Use of Prescription Drugs.

    The number of people taking cholesterol drugs is up from 6.5% (1999-2002) to 13.1% (2009-2012). Similar increases are seen in other common chronic conditions, including depression which increased 6.4% to 9.0% over the same period.[ii]

employer prescription drug costs

 

3.Specialty Drugs.

New, expensive medications for diseases such as cancer and multiple sclerosis are constantly hitting the market. Specialty drugs account for about 1% of total prescriptions but 35-45% of pharmacy spend, averaging $3,400 per drug per month.[iii]

4. Patent Expirations.

In 2016, Crestor, Zetia and Benicar all had patent expirations. The increased competition from generic equivalent drugs is decreasing costs across the board. Unfortunately for high-cost injectable medications like Humira, the introduction of generic versions is not as simple.

5. Advertising.

An estimated 80 drug commercials per hour are shown across TV outlets.employer prescription drug costs[iv] Radio, magazines, newspapers and social media also contain prescription drug ads that prompt individuals to ask doctors about specific drugs.

It’s an exciting time in the drug industry with the influx of new drugs coming on the market,” said Michael Cornwell, MedCost Director of Sales and Underwriting. “But it also presents challenges for us in the industry since controlling these costs is not always user-friendly.”

 

Employer Strategies for Controlling Prescription Drug Costs

 

Pharmacy Benefit Managers

Working with a Pharmacy Benefit Manager (PBM) supports cost management for employers in the pharmacy portion of their health plans. A PBM negotiates discounts and rebates from drug manufacturers, which are then returned back to the employer. PBMs also contract with pharmacies and process pharmacy claims.

The PBM controls pharmacy costs for employers through development of a preferred drug list (or formulary) and clinical programs. MedCost as a benefits administrator works closely with PBM partners to get the best rates for employers, customizing a pharmacy plan for each client’s unique population.

Formulary Management

Preferred drug lists are arranged in tiers, or cost levels, of generic, preferred and non-preferred medications. A PBM Pharmacy & Therapeutics Committee of industry experts follows a clinically-driven formulary decision-making process to define the preferred drug list. Some drugs are excluded from coverage in favor of clinically-similar alternatives that treat the same disease.

Exclusions can save as much as 15% of prescription drug costs in an employer’s health plan.

Prior Authorization

Prior authorizations require a doctor to provide additional clinical information to determine whether the health plan covers that drug. Employees, providers and health plan administrators dislike the inconvenience of waiting for approval of drugs. But this strategy is key to ensure that members take safe, clinically-appropriate and cost-effective drugs.

“There’s a human factor,” said Michael Cornwell. “We do not want to be disrupted in using familiar medicines. But employers cannot save money without these strategies.”

Step Therapy

Step therapy requires initial use of a lower-cost, clinically-similar drug for a medical condition, before a higher-cost drug for the same condition is covered by a health plan.

Summary

When 1% of prescriptions drive 40-45% of an employer’s pharmacy spend, avoiding wise management is no longer optional”, said Zafeira Sarrimanolis. “Part of my role as a MedCost Pharmacist is to emphasize the importance of cost-management strategies to our employers and consultants.”

“I also work closely with our clients to help employers understand the importance of educating their employees about these changes and why they are needed.”

“It’s all about making sure each employee gets the right drug for the right medical condition at the right time. That’s how we control pharmacy costs.MedCost

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[i] Brad Tuttle, “21 Incredibly Disturbing Facts about High Prescription Drug Prices,” Money Magazine, June 22, 2016, http://time.com/money/4377304/high-prescription-drug-prices-facts/ (accessed April 26, 2017).

[ii] “Health, United States, 2015,” National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,   https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/hus15.pdf#079 (2009-2012), (accessed April 26, 2017).

[iii] “The Growing Cost of Specialty Pharmacy – Is It Sustainable?” American Journal of Managed Care, February 18, 2013, http://www.ajmc.com/payer-perspectives/0213/the-growing-cost-of-specialty-pharmacyis-it-sustainable (accessed April 26, 2017).

[iv] “Prescription Drug Costs Remain Atop the Public’s National Health Care Agenda,” Kaiser Family Foundation, October 28, 2015, http://kff.org/health-costs/press-release/prescription-drug-costs-remain-atop-the-publics-national-health-care-agenda-well-ahead-of-affordable-care-act-revisions-and-repeal/ (accessed April 26, 2017).

Self-Funded vs. Fully-Insured Health Plans (Infographic)

Why are more employers choosing self-funded versus fully-insured health plans? This infographic compares the fixed costs of self-funded employer plans, with potential savings available from health dollars not spent by the company.

In the event that an employer’s claims are larger than projected, stop-loss insurance that is purchased protects business assets.

Self-Funded vs. Fully-Insured

This short video, “Reasons to Consider Self-Funding,” gives four key reasons that over 58% of US employees are enrolled in self-funded health plans. Evaluate these reasons to see what is best for your business.MedCost

(To print this infographic, click on the title and scroll to “PRINT THIS PAGE” at the bottom)

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).

How This Employer Reduced Health Costs – and Improved Employee Health

A Case Study

Reduced Health Costs Improved Employee Health

 

Executive Summary

Our client is a South Carolina municipality with an annual public budget of over $53 million, insuring 800 health plan members. The City of Aiken is governed by seven elected City Council members and Mayor.

The Challenge

Managing self-funded health costs, while providing excellent benefits for employees and their families.

Outcome

Reduced Health Costs Improved Employee Health

Savings achieved by:
  • Sending information quickly & accurately
  • Keeping cost trends low
  • Paying claims properly & promptly
  • Expert COBRA administration
  • Compliance education & direction
  • Personal client relationship
  • Responsive account management
“We highly value our relationship with MedCost. They have helped us tremendously with ACA regulations and plan administration. We’re very appreciative of how they take care of any issues.”  
 – Al Cothran, Revenue Administrator, City of Aiken, SC

Reduced Health Costs Improved Employee HealthHow Aiken Reduced Health Costs & Improved Employee Health

Al Cothran knows numbers. And the numbers that this Aiken Revenue Administrator saw in rising medical costs concerned him. This South Carolina municipality was a former member of a state municipal group that pooled self-funded health insurance. But increasing government regulations presented a stiff challenge, especially after the state municipal group ceased to exist in 2011.

The City wanted to continue to offer lower deductibles as their employees aged and needed more benefits. As a municipality that self-funded health expenses, the staff and City Council needed a benefits partner that could navigate a highly regulated industry while understanding their unique needs.

As premiums, pharmacy and claims costs skyrocketed throughout the health care industry, the City of Aiken turned to their long-time partner to preserve expenses—MedCost.

Benefits of MedCost Partnership

*Constant Access to Expert Nurse Consultants

Aiken began a wellness program in 2003 after several employees died of heart disease. In 2007, the City contracted with Aiken Regional Hospital for an RN to staff an onsite clinic three days per week. Services expanded to five days as sick leave use decreased, along with workers’ compensation claims.

Aiken’s contract nurse has greatly benefited from the training she has received from MedCost prenatal nurses, specialty case managers and nurse health coaches. The contract nurse transmits this knowledge to Aiken employees.

And the addition of obesity to the COACH program has affected Al personally. He has lost 60 pounds and changed his nutrition significantly. The City’s Comprehensive Health program (COACH) is producing a 2:1 return on their investment.

*Compliance Knowledge of Government Regulations

“MedCost’s compliance department alone is worth the price of admission,” said Al. Complex regulations and legislative changes in the Affordable Care Act presented huge hurdles for Al’s staff. MedCost experts provided timely updates and deadlines. MedCost’s seamless management of COBRA has also been a relief. “One of the best things we ever did was to turn COBRA over to MedCost,” said Al.

*Customized Reporting

MedCost’s specific, measurable analyses identify spending trends that empower Al and his staff to take action. Key observations categorize at-risk populations, with recommendations for cost containment. medicalMedCost Care Management programs help support Aiken’s RN, especially in complex cases of cancer, diabetes or cardiac conditions. Employees are encouraged to get regular screenings.

“You can’t put a monetary amount on the heart attack you prevented,” said Al.

*Help with Employee Dependents

“A lot of our big claims are for dependents,” Al said. “Those dealing with cancer have been very complimentary of MedCost case managers who have helped them.” MedCost staff helps pinpoint members who need nursing support while communicating with Aiken’s onsite RN – avoiding gaps in care that can be costly in every way.

“Our COACH program has been a huge benefit for us, in cost savings of premiums. I can’t tell you how many cities have toured our facility to see how we are doing wellness. We highly value our relationship with MedCost.”MedCost

This case study was published with permission from the City of Aiken, SC.

7 Ways to Manage Medical Cost for Employers (Infographic)

medical cost

*Discover more resources about MedCost Care Management programs hereOr browse through seven ways to manage medical cost:

  1. Complex Case Management 
  2. Inpatient Management
  3. Outpatient Management
  4. Telehealth Services
  5. Nurse Health Coaching
  6. Maternity Management
  7. Behavioral Health

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

House Republicans Introduce Health Care Reform Legislation

health reformBy Brad Roehrenbeck, General Counsel & VP, Legal Services, Compliance

On Monday, House Republicans unveiled the long-awaited legislation intended to overhaul former President Barack Obama’s signature health care legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The bill, titled the American Health Care Act (AHCA), would make major changes to the ACA that impact individuals, employers, insurers, and providers in significant ways, as summarized below.

Provisions Impacting Employer-Sponsored Coverage

The most significant development impacting employers under the proposed law is removal of the employer mandate.

  • Large employers would no longer face penalties for failing to offer coverage that meets the minimum value and minimum essential coverage requirements of the ACA. 
  • Additionally, the proposed bill would repeal the widely unpopular excise tax on high-cost coverage (the so-called Cadillac Tax) and offer tax credits to small businesses for providing coverage to employees. 
  • The law would also require employers to indicate on Form W2 the months of coverage each employee was eligible for coverage. (Note: It appears the legislation is intended also to eliminate the ACA’s annual employer 1094/1095 reporting under Section 6056 of the Code. That would be a natural by-product of the employer mandate repeal, but the bill does not appear to eliminate this obligation expressly. This may be addressed in a future amendment to the bill.) 

Changes to Account-Based Plans

health reformThe AHCA would make some significant changes to the rules governing HSA accounts for the first time since 2004.

  • The bill would increase the annual HSA contribution limit to equal the out-of-pocket maximum amount established for that year under the HSA rules (currently $6,550 for self-only coverage and $13,100 for family coverage).
  • The rules would also be modified to allow both spouses (if over 55) to make “catch-up” contributions to the same HSA account.
  • Also, a new special rule would allow HSA account holders to use HSA funds to pay for health care services performed up to 60 days prior to the account being established.
  • The bill would also reduce the excise tax on distributions not used for medical expenses from 20% to 10%.
  • Finally, the AHCA would remove the ACA’s cap on contributions to health FSA plans.

Changes to the Individual Market

While leaving in place popular provisions of the ACA such as the requirements that insurers cover dependents up to the age of 26 and pre-existing conditions, the AHCA would otherwise significantly redesign the ACA’s changes to the individual market.

  • First, the bill does away with the individual mandate and repeals the cost-sharing subsidies and premium tax credits made available under the ACA to individuals who enroll in coverage on the exchanges.
  • In turn, the AHCA puts in place refundable tax credits that individuals could use to defray the cost of coverage, including coverage outside the exchanges.
  • Like under the ACA, these tax credits are eligible for advance payment. The amount of the credits will vary based on age and income, and excess payments can be deposited directly into an HSA account.
  • Tax credits are not available for any coverage that includes abortion services.

health reformIn place of the individual mandate, to incentivize individuals to maintain coverage, the bill provides for increased premiums (30% for 12 months) for individuals who have had a gap in coverage of at least 63 days.

  • The bill also creates the “Patient and State Stability Fund,” which provides significant payments to states ($10 to $15 billion per year through 2026) to help stabilize the individual and small group insurance markets and to assist high-risk patients.
  • Also, beginning in 2020, the ACA’s requirements around essential health benefits will sunset.
  • Finally, the bill allows carriers greater flexibility to vary premiums based on age by up to a 5:1 ratio, up from 3:1 under the ACA.

Changes in the Medicaid Program

Unsurprisingly, the AHCA would repeal the ACA’s expansion of the Medicaid program.

  • It would also put into place a per-capital allotment of federal Medicaid dollars to the states, which is expected to rein in the future federal financial commitment to the program.
  • Similar to other provisions, the bill would bar Medicaid dollars from being used on abortion providers.
  • It would also require states to disenroll high-dollar lottery winners and incentivize states to assess participant eligibility on a more frequent basis. (Note: The bill will also reverse major cuts to the Medicare Disproportionate Share Hospital program, which provides safety net funding to more than 3,000 hospitals that disproportionately treat indigent patients).

Repeal of ACA Taxes

Finally, the AHCA would repeal numerous taxes—in addition to the Cadillac Tax discussed above—that either have gone into effect or are expected to become effective under the ACA.

  • Among those are:
    • The insurer tax (effectively a federal insurance premium tax),
    • The prescription medication tax,
    • The tax on over-the-counter medications,
    • The medical device tax.
    • It would also eliminate taxes on high-income earners that were levied under the ACA to help pay for the law.

health reformRepublicans have signaled an aggressive timeline for deliberations on the law. Committee hearings are expected to take place immediately, and the bill could reach the floor of the House in as little as one week.

President Trump has forecasted that he would like to sign the bill by Easter. We will continue to monitor developments, including any changes in the bill as it moves through the legislative process.MedCost

This blog post should not be considered as legal advice.