Affordable Care Act Review

Affordable Care Act Review

The Surprise of Familiarity

Posted in Affordable Care Act, Coverage Mandates, Employee Leasing, Government Employers, Independent Contractors, Insurers and Brokers, Private Employers, Taxes

Watching from afar the Scouts attempting to earn their orienteering merit badges, we could see it on the boys’ faces.  They were lost; they were scared.  They should have reached their destination an hour ago.  Soon, these woods would be dark.   The compass holder, the map marker and the step counter resumed their running argument. We wondered whether to intervene.  Then, the class clown smiled . . . and pointed . . . at a rusted, single-wide trailer they had seen before, very near their departure point.  In five hours, they had come full circle.  They had done a lot wrong and were glad just to know how to get back to our campfire. Success could wait.

And so it is with ACA repeal.  A better-planned, better-executed effort may be mounted, but probably not soon.  Between now and then, 2015 employer mandate taxes will be assessed and collected, and perhaps 2016 taxes, too.  OSHA will investigate the retaliation complaints of employees discharged after triggering those tax assessments by seeking ACA Marketplace subsidies.  Form 1094-C / Form 1095-C reporting penalties will be imposed.  Group health plans will be audited for ACA compliance.  Temp staffing and employee leasing arrangements will be disrupted by those developments.  Consequently, we now return you to our regularly scheduled program.  If ACA compliance has been sidelined or forgotten in your organization, now would be a good time to tune-in.

And . . . the . . . CBO . . . Scooooores!

Posted in Affordable Care Act, Coverage Mandates, Exchanges, Government Employers, Insurers and Brokers, Private Employers, Providers - For Profit, Providers - Not-for-Profit, Taxes

Here are the highlights we took (quickly) from this afternoon’s Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate for the American Health Care Act.

The AHCA “would reduce federal deficits by $337 billion over the 2017-2026 period.”

In 2018, “14 million more people would be uninsured under the [AHCA] than under current law. Most of that increase would stem from repealing the penalties associated with the individual mandate.”  Mostly due to reduced Medicaid rolls, that number would rise to 21 million by 2020 and then to 24 million by 2025.

“[T]he [individual health insurance] market would probably be stable in most areas under either current law or the [new] legislation.”

“Even though the new tax credits would be structured differently from the current subsidies and would generally be less generous for those receiving subsidies under current law, the other changes would, in the agencies’ view, lower average premiums enough to attract a sufficient number of relatively healthy people to stabilize the market.”

“The [AHCA] would tend to increase average premiums in the [individual health insurance] market prior to 2020 and lower average premiums thereafter, relative to projections under current law.”

“Under the [AHCA], insurers would be allowed to generally charge five times more for older enrollees than younger ones rather than three times more as under current law, substantially reducing premiums for young adults and substantially raising premiums for older people.”

“With less federal reimbursement for Medicaid, states would need to decide whether to commit more of their own resources to finance the program at current-law levels or whether to reduce spending by cutting payments to health care providers and health plans, eliminating optional services, restricting eligibility for enrollment, or (to the extent feasible) arriving at more efficient methods for delivering services.”

“Beginning in 2020, the [AHCA] would repeal [ACA actuarial value] requirements, potentially allowing plans to have an actuarial value below 60 percent. However, plans would still be required to cover 10 categories of health benefits that are defined as “essential” under current law, and the total annual out-of-pocket costs for an enrollee would remain capped. [C]omplying with those two requirements would significantly limit the ability of insurers to design plans with an actuarial value much below 60 percent.”

CBO expects that, “businesses that decided not to offer insurance coverage under the [AHCA] would have, on average, younger and higher-income workforces than businesses that choose not to offer insurance under current law.”

“The [AHCA] would eliminate [the ACA’s DSH] cuts for states that have not expanded Medicaid under the ACA starting in 2018 and for the remaining states starting in 2020, boosting outlays by $31 billion over the next 10 years.”

“The [AHCA] would provide $2 billion in funding in each year from 2018 to 2021 to states that did not expand Medicaid eligibility under the ACA. Those states could use the funding, within limits, to supplement payments to providers that treat Medicaid enrollees.”

“The [AHCA] would make a number of additional changes to the Medicaid program, including these:

  • Requiring states to treat lottery winnings and certain other income as income for purposes of determining eligibility;
  • Decreasing the period when Medicaid benefits may be covered retroactively from up to three months before a recipient’s application to the first of the month in which a recipient makes an application;
  • Eliminating federal payments to states for Medicaid services provided to applicants who did not provide satisfactory evidence of citizenship or nationality during a reasonable opportunity period; and
  • Eliminating states’ option to increase the amount of allowable home equity from $500,000 to $750,000 for individuals applying for Medicaid coverage of long-term services and supports.”

ACA Repeal: The Middle Part

Posted in Affordable Care Act, Coverage Mandates, Employee Leasing, Exchanges, Government Employers, Insurers and Brokers, Private Employers, Providers - For Profit, Providers - Not-for-Profit, Taxes

Screenplays, new business ventures and major legislation typically have problems in Act II.  Hopes were raised so high in Act I.  Now, things seem to drag on and on, pointlessly.   Friends tell you to give up or start over and enemies . . . well.

Last week, two House committees – Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means – produced the budget reconciliation bill drafts, sub nom the American Health Care Act – that were scheduled to have been delivered to the House Budget Committee by January 27.  The Budget Committee (remember, this is budget reconciliation) now will seek to deliver to the House floor an AHCA draft that can get 218 votes despite a feared CBO analysis that may be published today.  Here are highlights of the current bills.

Individual mandate taxes and employer mandate taxes are repealed, sort of.  Technically, the employer mandate tax (26 U.S.C. § 4980H) is set at $0 for tax years beginning after December 31, 2015.  Puzzlingly, however, ACA coverage reporting mandates and penalties are untouched.    So, if you were hoping to avoid dealing with the IRS about 2015 tax assessments, or Form 1095-C reporting issues, you’ll need Budget Committee or House floor amendments.  And, while the individual mandate dies, the AHCA authorizes insurers to charge a 30% premium for people who want to buy coverage after they become ill or injured.  That’s the trade-off for keeping the ACA mandate to sell coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

Medicaid expansion, which the ACA promised to fund only to 2019, is repealed after 2019.  Further, states will be paid a capped amount per individual enrolled in Medicaid.  However, the AHCA restores DSH payments that hospitals lost under the ACA and gives states much more authority to police Medicaid eligibility and ferret-out fraud.

ACA premium and cost sharing subsidies are repealed and replaced with tax credits based on age and family size.

Almost all the ACA’s new taxes are repealed, along with the ACA’s FSA limits.  The big exception is the Cadillac Plan tax, which gets buried and then rises from the grave, zombie-like, in 2025.

We don’t plan to get too excited about anything until we see (a) what the House sends the Senate and (b) what HHS Secretary Tom Price does to reform, by administrative rule and sub-regulatory guidance, what cannot be changed by budget reconciliation legislation.  For example, in a March 10 news release, the Secretary promised to do, “everything within our authority to provide our nation’s governors and state legislatures with greater flexibility on how they utilize Medicaid resources in caring for those in need.  This will include a review of existing waiver procedures to provide states the impetus and freedom to innovate and test new ideas to improve access to care and health outcomes.”  We suspect that new HHS rules (and, later, IRS and DOL rules) will become bargaining chips in negotiations over legislation that will need 60 Senate votes.

We’re in the middle Act.  It’s messy and we’ll need a while to see where we’re going.  As Quasimodo would have said, “The bills . . . the bills!”

Update:  On March 16, 2017, the House Budget Committee approved (19-17) the AHCA without amendment.

Developments February 6 – 10: Is the Price Right?

Posted in Affordable Care Act, Coverage Mandates, Exchanges, Government Employers, Insurers and Brokers, Private Employers, Providers - For Profit, Providers - Not-for-Profit, Taxes

During the week reviewed, no new bill was introduced which, if passed, would repeal or replace the Affordable Care Act, and little else happened at the three main ACA enforcement agencies – DOL, HHS and IRS.

Department of Labor

The Department of Labor still has no Secretary and the nominee, Andrew Puzder, has not yet been given a hearing.  A DOL.gov site redesign was apparent, but it says nothing regarding the agency’s implementation, or not, of Executive Order 13765, which commands ACA enforcement agencies to –

exercise all authority and discretion available to them to waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of any provision or requirement of the Act that would impose a fiscal burden on any State or a cost, fee, tax, penalty, or regulatory burden on individuals, families, healthcare providers, health insurers, patients, recipients of healthcare services, purchasers of health insurance, or makers of medical devices, products, or medications,

“to the maximum extent permitted by law.”

Health and Human Services

Former Congressman Tom Price (R-GA) was confirmed as the new HHS Secretary February 9, 2017.  On that date, most HHS web pages related to the ACA remained substantially as they were the day before President Trump’s inauguration. There was no mention of E.O. 13765.  Nevertheless, the Price confirmation may be the most significant development of the week.  If majority leaders in the House and Senate cannot produce soon a repeal/replace bill supported by a majority of each majority, the new HHS Secretary figures to become the project manager by default.

Internal Revenue Service

The Internal Revenue Bulletins for February 6 and February 13 include no reference to the employer mandate tax assessment procedures forecast to be rolled-out in “early 2017.”  We doubt that this prolonged silence was provoked by the regulatory freeze executive order, since a February 2 White House Memorandum seems to confine that freeze to “significant” regulations, and the employer mandate regulations were not deemed “significant” by the IRS.  See 79 Fed. Reg. 8,577 (Feb. 12, 2014, left column).  And no, the IRS website doesn’t mention E. O. 13765 either.

We doubt that Gershwin tune, “I Got Plenty O’ Nottin’,” was intended as political prophecy.  It just turned out that way.

2015 Form 1095-C Penalty Letters: Have You Got Mail?

Posted in Affordable Care Act, Coverage Mandates, Government Employers, Private Employers, Taxes

Since late December, 2016, many Applicable Large Employer Members have received IRS Letter 5699 from a Tax Compliance Officer at an address in Florence, Kentucky.  The “Dear Taxpayer” letter is headed: “Request for Employer Reporting of Offers of Health Insurance Coverage (Forms 1094-C and 1095-C).”  We have assumed the authenticity of these letters.

Each letter tells the recipient that no 2015 Form 1094-C or Form 1095-C was received from the taxpayer ID number appearing atop the letter and instructs the taxpayer to check one of these boxes and return the letter by mail.

[ ] I was an ALE for calendar year 2015 and already filed Form 1094-C and Forms 1095-C with the IRS using the following name __________ and employer identification number (EIN) _______ on date ____.

[ ] I was an ALE for calendar year 2015 and my Form 1094-C and Forms 1095-C are included with this letter. (Do not use this box if you are required to file electronically.)

[ ] I was an ALE for calendar year 2015 and will file my Form 1094-C and Forms 1095-C with the IRS using the following name __________ and EIN ______ by date ___.  (If more than 90 days from the date of this letter, explain below under “Other.”)

[ ] I was not an ALE for calendar year 2015.

[ ] Other (Indicate below or attach a statement explaining why you have not filed the required returns and any actions you plan to take.)

[ … ]

If you are required to file information returns under IRC Section 6056, failure to comply may result in the assessment of a penalty under IRC Section 6721 for a failure to file information returns.

If you have questions, please contact the person shown at the top of this letter.

Remember, there are two penalties for each missing Form 1095-C – $250 for failing to deliver it to the employee and another $250 for failing to file it with the IRS.  Lesser penalties apply to late filing and certain filing errors.  As they say in the Exempt Organizations group, “BOLO” – i.e., Be On the Look-Out.

The End of the Beginning: Developments January 27 – February 5

Posted in Affordable Care Act, Exchanges, Government Employers, Insurers and Brokers, Private Employers, Providers - For Profit, Providers - Not-for-Profit, Taxes

Nothing resembling a repeal/replace consensus bill emerged from any committee in either chamber during the survey period.  Instead, in a Fox News interview broadcast just before the Super Bowl, the President confessed that ACA repeal may require more than a year.  A concise summary by Peter Sullivan in The Hill is online here.

Consistent with that impression, ACA bills introduced last week just nibble around the edges.

H.R. 710 assumes that the ACA is not repealed and so amends it to better align ACA non-payment grace periods with those established in state laws.

H.R. 708 would relax the present ACA age banding rules and H.R. 706 would tighten special enrollment eligibility verification requirements.

Like H.R. 849,  S. 260 (Sen. Cornyn, R-TX) and S. 251 (Sen. Wyden, D–OR) would repeal only the ACA’s Independent Payment Advisory Board.  The same Senators filed similar Independent Medicare Advisory Board disapproval resolutions – S.J. Res. 17 (Cornyn) and S.J. Res. 16 (Wyden).

The video of the February 1, 2017 ACA hearing held by the Senate H.E.L.P. Committee is online here.  On February 2, the House Ways and Means Committee posted some early information about its “concept of a health care backpack” in lieu of the present ACA structure.

The IRS has posted two editions of the Internal Revenue Bulletin since our last update, neither detailing ACA tax and penalty assessment procedures.

The ACA was not repealed or replaced on Day 1; neither is likely to happen by Day 100.  What Winston Churchill said.

Hitch In the Giddy-up: Round-up of Developments January 19 – 27

Posted in Affordable Care Act, Coverage Mandates, Exchanges, Government Employers, Insurers and Brokers, Private Employers, Providers - For Profit, Providers - Not-for-Profit, Taxes

As previously reported, § 2001 of the 2017 budget bill required all ACA repeal/replace bills to be filed and reported from assigned committees by Friday, January 27, 2017.  That didn’t happen.  Since our last posting, the bills listed below have been filed and assigned to committees, but no ACA bill has emerged from committee in either chamber.

H.R. 661 and H.R. 633 would grandfather as “minimum essential coverage” small group market health insurance plans that filed to meet the MEC criteria established by HHS under the ACA.

H.R. 640 would require states with failed ACA Exchanges to return unused federal funds.

H.R. 628 would preserve from ACA repeal the prohibition of pre-existing condition exclusions.

S.222 is Senator Rand Paul’s repeal and replace bill.

S. 194 (Sen. Whitehouse, D-RI) and H.R. 635 (Rep. Schankowsky, D-IL) revive debate over the “public option” that Congressional Democrats rejected when they passed the ACA in 2010.

S. 191 would permit states to opt-out of certain ACA health insurance market reforms and to substitute their own plans and programs.

On January 26, the House Budget Committee held a hearing titled, “The Failures of Obamacare: Harmful Effects and Broken Promises.”  The House Committee on Education and the Workforce scheduled a February 1 hearing titled, “”Rescuing Americans from the Failed Health Care Law and Advancing Patient-Centered Solutions.”

The Senate Budget Committee also set a February 1 hearing on CBO’s Budget and Economic Outlook, to be held at the same time as the Senate H.E.L.P Committee hearing titled, “Obamacare Emergency: Stabilizing the Individual Health Insurance Market.”

A Congressional Budget Office report (p.35) forecasts that repeal of the ACA medical device tax, health insurance provider fee and Cadillac plan tax would boost the deficit by $311 billion over ten years.  A separate CBO report, requested by Senate Democrats, estimates the insurance market consequences of repealing certain ACA taxes, fees and subsidies without repealing other ACA insurance market reforms.

Meanwhile, back at the IRS, a few new details were added January 18 to the FAQ guidance page for Applicable Large Employers.  Here’s what caught our eyes, reading from Q55 to Q 58.

From Q55:

The IRS will contact ALEs that filed Forms 1094-C and 1095-C by letter to inform them of their potential liability, if any. These letters will provide ALEs an opportunity to respond to the IRS before any liability is assessed or notice and demand for payment is made.  (These letters are separate from the letters that the IRS may send to employers that appear to be ALEs but have not satisfied the requirement to file Forms 1094-C and 1095-C.).

From Q56 (emphasis ours):

The IRS expects that the letters informing ALEs that filed Forms 1094-C and 1095-C of their potential liability for an employer shared responsibility payment for the 2015 calendar year (with reporting in 2016) will be issued beginning in early 2017.

For future years, the IRS expects it will begin issuing letters informing ALEs that filed Forms 1094-C and 1095-C of their potential liability for an employer shared responsibility payment, if any, in the latter part of each calendar year in which reporting was due (for example, in late 2018 for reporting in 2018 for coverage in 2017).

From Q 57 (emphasis ours):

The IRS expects to publish guidance of general applicability describing the employer shared responsibility payment procedures in the Internal Revenue Bulletin before sending any letters to ALEs for the 2015 calendar year.  In addition, the IRS expects to supplement that guidance in several different ways, widely distributing the information to ensure that ALEs are properly informed of when and how the IRS will be contacting them.

So, we’re watching the IRB daily.  However, that guidance was posted before the President issued Executive Order 13765 (January 20, 2017), directing each ACA enforcement agency to –

exercise all authority and discretion available to them to waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of any provision or requirement of the Act that would impose a fiscal burden on any State or a cost, fee, tax, penalty, or regulatory burden on individuals, families, healthcare providers, health insurers, patients, recipients of healthcare services, purchasers of health insurance, or makers of medical devices, products, or medications.

We have found no IRS or Treasury Department statement of how the Order may change the January 18 FAQ guidance, but the guidance has not been removed from the IRS web page.

President Trump’s First ACA “Executive Action”

Posted in Affordable Care Act, Coverage Mandates, Government Employers, Private Employers, Providers - For Profit, Providers - Not-for-Profit, Taxes

Shortly after his January 20 inauguration, President Trump signed an Executive Order (promptly published by Politico) titled, “Minimizing the Economic Burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Pending Appeal.”  It’s most notable for what it doesn’t do – i.e., compel any agency to take, or to refrain from taking, any particular ACA enforcement action.  It tells enforcement agencies to exercise their lawful discretion –

to waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of any provision or requirement of the Act that would impose a fiscal burden on any State or a cost, fee, tax, penalty, or regulatory burden on individuals, families, healthcare providers, health insurers, patients, recipients of healthcare services, purchasers of health insurance, or makers of medical devices, products, or medications.

And, “[t]o the extent that carrying out the directives in this order would require revision of regulations issued through notice-and-comment rulemaking, the heads of agencies shall comply with the Administrative Procedure Act ….”  For ACA opponents, the problem is that the conditions counteract the commands.

So, for example, changing the employer mandate tax assessment and collection rules would require a new rulemaking process.  But the Obama Administration waived, delayed, relaxed and emphasized, or not, various parts of the employer mandate and employer reporting rules through what it called “sub-regulatory guidance,” consisting of, among other things, IRS Notices and periodically updated Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) web page postings.

Perhaps President Trump hopes by this Order to induce current DOL, IRS and HHS staff to delay and relax already overdue ACA enforcement efforts.  But this Order does not command any waiver, delay, relaxation or other, particular, sub-regulatory guidance, which means, practically speaking, that the new President is asking the former President’s appointees to cooperate to undo years of their work.  We expect few volunteers.

If that’s a good guess, then the new Administration will need legislation, or personnel change, or both, to effect significant policy change.

Update:  The official version of Executive Order 13765 is here.

On Your Mark, Get Ready, to Go . . . Somewhere: Congressional Developments January 12-18

Posted in Affordable Care Act, Coverage Mandates, Exchanges, Government Employers, Insurers and Brokers, Private Employers, Taxes

On January 13, the House passed the 2017 budget resolution (S. Con. Res. 3), which should be found on President Trump’s desk Monday morning.  As previously explained, this sets the stage for a filibuster-proof, budget reconciliation bill that can repeal and replace spending and tax provisions of the ACA.

S. 106,  introduced January 12 by Senator Cruz, would repeal the ACA entirely, but appears to include provisions susceptible to Senate filibuster.

While we await a consensus reconciliation bill, ACA-nibbling measures continue to be filed, including these:

H.R. 563 would eliminate the ACA individual mandate;

H.R. 562 would zero the individual mandate tax;

H.R. 561 would re-define “Applicable Large Employer”;

H.R. 551 would upgrade the ACA status of catastrophic coverage insurance;

H.R. 537 and H.R. 521 would exempt from the individual mandate those living in counties with less than 2 Exchange insurers;

S. 147  would forbid what it calls “a taxpayer bailout of health insurance issuers;”

S. 108  would repeal the medical device tax.

We expect to hear next week about President Trump’s initial ACA “executive actions.”  We doubt that we will see a consensus reconciliation bill in either chamber before Groundhog Day.

Fitness Enthusiasm Wanes Early: ACA-Related Congressional Actions January 5 – 12

Posted in Affordable Care Act, Coverage Mandates, Government Employers, Insurers and Brokers, Private Employers, Providers - For Profit, Providers - Not-for-Profit, Taxes

On January 5, the House passed the “Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act of 2017” (H.R. 26), streamlining the process for Congressional review and rejection of administrative agency rules, including a 10-year sunset provision for rules that Congress has not expressly approved.

In a late night “vote-a-rama” held January 11-12, the Senate approved the FY2017 budget (S. Con. Res. 3), which, absent Presidential veto, will enable Congress to pass budget reconciliation legislation immune to Senate filibuster.  Section 2001 directs assigned committees to report proposed ACA reconciliation bills to the Budget Committee by January 27, and requires the Budget Committee then to send to the full Senate “a reconciliation bill carrying out all such recommendations without any substantial revision.”

However, the big story was open dissent from any Senate plan to repeal the ACA without at least a consensus substitute bill, expressed most materially by Senator Lamar Alexander (Tennessee), chairman of the HELP Committee- i.e., Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.  Others sounding similar notes included Senators Cassidy (Louisiana), Collins (Maine), Corker (Tennessee), Murkowski (Alaska), Paul (Kentucky) and Portman (Ohio).  The loss of those votes for quick repeal, even by budget reconciliation, would require the majority to recruit seven or more minority party Senators.  That seems unlikely.  Nevertheless, a wide range of repeal bills continue to be filed.  Here’s a representative, but not exhaustive, list.

H.R. 394, introduced January 10 and referred to Ways and Means, would repeal the ACA provision that revised the Internal Revenue Code to prohibit HSA expenses for over-the-counter medications.  See also S. 85, introduced January 11 and referred to the Finance Committee.

H.R. 370, a full repeal bill, was introduced January 9 and referred to nine committees.

H.R. 314, a partial repeal bill, was introduced January 5 and referred to three committees.

H.J. Res. 21, amending the Constitution to forbid Congress to tax the failure to purchase a good or service, was introduced January 6 and referred to the House Judiciary Committee.  This amendment would reverse the Supreme Court’s approval of the ACA individual mandate.

S. 58, to repeal the Cadillac Plan tax (see also S. 40), was introduced January 9 and referred to the Senate Finance Committee.