The US Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Treasury (the “Agencies”) jointly issued yesterday a document entitled “FAQs about the Affordable Care Act Implementation Part XV” (“FAQs”) addressing four issues of concern with respect to implementation of the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) by group health plans and health insurers offering group coverage.
Annual Limit Waiver Expiration Date based on a Change to a Plan or Policy Year
Certain plans, including those referred to as “mini med” plans, by design might otherwise violate the ACA prohibition on annual or lifetime limits on essential health benefits. Many of these plans obtained government waivers from this ACA prohibition. These waivers are due to expire in 2014. The new FAQs clarify that any waiver expiration date cannot be extended by way of plan or policy year amendment. For example, if a waiver approval letter states that a waiver is granted for an April 1, 2013 plan or policy year, the waiver will expire on March 31, 2014, regardless of whether the plan or issuer later amends its plan or policy year.
“Good Faith” is the Standard for Implementation of Two ACA Mandates
The ACA requires that non-grandfathered group health plans and health insurance issuers not discriminate as to participation under a plan or coverage against any health care provider who is acting within the scope of that provider’s license or certification under applicable state law. It also requires that non-grandfathered group health plans provide coverage to individuals participating in approved clinical trials. Because the provider nondiscrimination and clinical trial coverage mandates under ACA are self-implementing (i.e., do not require regulations in order to be implemented), the FAQs note that the Agencies are not expected to issue regulations in the near future with respect to those mandates. Therefore, until further guidance is issued, for plan or policy years beginning on or after January 1, 2014, non-grandfathered group health plans and health insurance issuers offering group coverage are expected to implement the provider nondiscrimination and clinical trial coverage requirements using a good faith, reasonable interpretation of the law. For more information on these mandates click here http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/faqs/faq-aca15.html.
Transparency Requirements Effective
The ACA requires that health insurance issuers seeking to offer qualified health plans (“QHPs”) (i.e., individual or small group policies that meet various exchange standards) through an exchange, must submit specified information to the exchange and other entities in a timely and accurate manner. The FAQs clarify that issuers need only begin providing that information after a QHP has been certified as a QHP for one benefit year. The FAQs also clarify that certain related reporting requirements will become applicable to non-grandfathered group health plans and health insurance issuers offering group or individual coverage no sooner than when the transparency reporting requirements with respect to QHPs become applicable. For more information on these reporting requirements click here http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/faqs/faq-aca15.html.