As we approach December, the impending arrival of Santa Claus is no doubt dominating discussions in many households. However, there is another, perhaps lesser known, “clause”-related item that health plan sponsors need to keep top of mind in the coming month.

Specifically, as discussed in our blog found here, health plan sponsors must remember to file their first annual “no gag clause” attestation on December 31, covering the period from December 27, 2020 through the attestation date.

Here are some quick reminders about the requirement, along with some next steps for plans that are catching up:

  • What is the “No Gag Clause” Attestation?

The “no gag clause” attestation, which must be filed annually by December 31, requires group health plans and issuers to certify that they are not subject to agreements that directly or indirectly restrict them from disclosing provider-specific cost or quality-of-care information to certain parties, electronic accessing de-identified claims and encounter information (consistent with privacy laws) or sharing this information with a business associate.

  • How to File an Attestation

The attestation is filed electronically on CMS’s dedicated website, found here. Instructions, frequently asked questions and a user manual can be found on CMS’s website here.

  • Who is Responsible for the Attestation?

While self-insured plans retain the ultimate responsibility for ensuring that the attestation is submitted, they can contract with their third-party administrators to file on their behalf.

For fully-insured plans, the insurance issuer’s submission of an attestation will satisfy the attestation requirement for both the plan and the issuer.

  • What Should Plan Sponsors Do Now?

For plans that have not yet begun to address the attestation, there is still time to take the necessary steps as follows:

  • If they have not already done so, plans should review their service agreement(s) to ensure that they do not contain any gag clauses.
  • Plans may also wish to obtain written confirmation from their administrators that no prohibited gag clauses are included in their applicable contracts (and, if any are, that the contracts are amended to remove them effective December 27, 2020).
  • Self-insured plans should contact their administrator(s) to coordinate who will be filing the submission. At this stage, many administrators already have their processes in place and may not wish to file on the behalf of the plan, in which case the plan will need to do the filing. This will make accomplishing the first two steps more important.

Getting these tasks accomplished as soon as possible will allow plan sponsors to put these prohibited clauses behind them and focus on the good Clauses of the season—Santa and Mrs.