Doing What We Can

ebso-doing-what-we-can-blogWe often hear of professional athletes succeeding under pressure by staying “in the moment” and remaining focused on the things that are within their control. This challenge can be applied to the uncomfortable position all of us find ourselves in today – somewhere between complying with existing laws and anticipating the unknowns coming from Washington.

While the IRS has relaxed enforcement of the individual mandate and acknowledged problems in the ACA reporting system, it has confirmed that an applicable large employer is still subject to an employer shared responsibility payment if it fails to offer coverage to 95% of its full-time employees. We continue to help large employers offer minimum essential coverage to avoid penalties, when appropriate, and track offers of coverage to comply with reporting requirements on IRS forms 1094 and 1095.

Other matters remain up in the air as well, including the so-called Cadillac tax on high-cost health plans and any changes in maximum contributions that may be made to HSAs, which would require legislative action. While any significant ACA repeal, replace or repair efforts appear to be overshadowed by the Administration’s interest in tax reform, we continue to monitor developments in healthcare reform and keep our clients and partners informed. It’s our way of doing what we can and remaining “in the moment.”

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How Reconciliation Can Change ACA

acaWhile it will take support from Republicans and Democrats to fully replace Obamacare, a simple majority of Republican senators could repeal parts of the law through reconciliation. Here are just a few:

  • The individual and employer mandates can be reduced to zero
  • The Cadillac tax, currently delayed to 2020, could be repealed
  • Individual subsidies to purchase exchange coverage can be reduced to zero

Another welcome step requiring only a simple majority in the Senate would be increasing the limits on FSA and HSA contributions.

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ACA Changes You Should Note

Even though 2016 was considered the year of full implementation for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) employer mandate, changes keep coming. Here are a few points you will want to stay ahead of.

medical-moneySmall Employer Group Changes

The Protecting Affordable Coverage for Employers (PACE) Act, passed last fall, defines the small employer as having one to 50 employees. States, however, are permitted to elect to extend the definition of a small employer as up to 100 employees.

Even though the way businesses are categorized will now be a state-by-state decision, most are using the PACE Act definition. A few, including California and New York, have chosen to use 100.

Health Plan Transition Relief to Expire

Transition relief for the Employer Shared Responsibility payments for large employers with fully insured plans during the prior year will expire January 1, 2017. Depending on a plan’s eligibility and start date, applicable large employers (ALEs) must be compliant at some point this year or face penalties. Starting January 1, the non-calendar year transition relief expires and all ALEs will be required to offer compliant coverage. This does not apply to self-funded plans.

Grandfathered plans are also expiring in January 1, 2017. Fifteen states required the end of remaining grandfathered, non-ACA compliant plans this year, while the other 35 states will do so in 2017.

IRS Reporting Penalties

This year when employers completed Forms 1094-C and 1095-C, they were not assessed penalties for incorrect or missing data. Employers need to identify any issues with their reporting and plan ahead since that good faith effort has not been extended. They must set aside time for testing to correct any coding or processing errors. Employers should also consider avoiding the cost of printing and mailing by enabling employees to access Form 1095-Cs online.

Cadillac Tax Delayed to 2020

The 40% excise tax on the cost of health coverage exceeding pre-determined threshold amounts, which was initially intended to take hold in 2013, was delayed to 2018. Now it has been delayed to 2020 and while some think it will eventually become law because the revenue is needed to fund the Affordable Care Act, the IRS has again issued a request for comments.

Employers have several regulations to address and implement in order to remain compliant and avoid future penalties. As always, we are prepared to help our clients remain ACA compliant as regulatory changes continue to come our way.

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ACA Fee Moratorium and Self-Funding

acaWhen Congress delayed the Cadillac Tax until 2020, the same law placed a one-year moratorium on the annual fee the ACA imposes on health insurance carriers. While the fee does not have a direct impact on TPAs or self-funded plans, it does sometimes impact stop loss premiums.

Since this fee applied to insurance carriers and not the majority of self-funded plan costs claims, some small group plans that moved to level funding may experience a slight cost increase in 2017. When the tax returns in 2018, the revenue targets are expected to increase. If the tax increases from its previous levels of 3% to 4%, the potential savings available to self-funded and level-funded plans will increase as well.

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Cadillac Tax Delayed Until 2020

When President Obama signed the new Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 into law in late December, he delayed both the Cadillac and Medical Device taxes by two years, from 2018 to 2020. The legislation also provided for the deductibility of the Cadillac Tax, which is an excise tax of 40% on the “excess benefit” of high cost employer-sponsored coverage, regardless of whether the health plan is fully insured or self-funded.

The cost thresholds associated with “high cost” coverage were initially indexed annually from a base value of $10,200 for individual coverage and $27,500 for other than self-only coverage, adjusted to reflect the age and gender composition of the employee population. The Cadillac Tax was originally intended to take effect in 2013, but in 2010, was postponed from 2013 to 2018.

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HSA Contributions Remain Tax Deductible

hsaEven though employer and pre-tax contributions to Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are becoming threatened by the looming Cadillac Tax, after-tax contributions continue to be deductible.

While individuals can deduct unreimbursed medical expenses on Schedule A of their federal tax return, the expenses must exceed 10% of adjusted gross income before they are deductible. Qualifying contributions to an HSA, however, are deducted from gross income to determine adjusted gross income and not reported as medical expenses on Schedule A. As a result, after-tax HSA contributions are not limited by the 10% floor or income phase-outs that impact itemized deductions.

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Debate on Cadillac Tax Continues

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While there is plenty of discussion about the tax on high cost health plans, the tone has changed somewhat since the CBO said the federal government would forfeit over $80 billion if the tax were repealed.

One of the big concerns related to the Cadillac Tax is its impact on benefits that help reduce out-of-pocket costs for working families. When the tax takes effect in 2018, a 40% levy will apply to benefits that exceed the government-set threshold. Employer contributions to FSAs and HSAs, and even costs associated with on-site clinics, would be included in the tax calculation.

Doing away with these accounts would increase out-of-pocket costs for millions of Americans. While lawmakers on both sides of the aisle support a bill to repeal the tax, they face an uphill battle. Not only is the government counting on the tax to raise a projected $87 billion over 10 years, but President Obama has stated he will veto any legislation that weakens the health care reform law.

A trend that many say is related to the tax is a continued rise in deductibles, which according to Kaiser Family Foundation research, have increased by about 8% from a year ago. Recent polling by consultant Mercer shows that 41% of employers have already added a high deductible plan in anticipation of the tax.