Regulatory roundup

More healthcare-related regulatory news for plan sponsors, including links to detailed information.

IRS updates Q&As about ACA information reporting
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has updated the following three question and answer (Q&A) documents regarding Patient Protection and Accountable Care Act (ACA) information reporting by employers.

Q&A about Information Reporting by Employers on Form 1094-C and Form 1095-C

Q&A on Reporting of Offers of Health Insurance Coverage by Employers (Section 6056)

Q&A on Employer Shared Responsibility Provisions Under the Affordable Care Act

Employers and coverage providers: 11 facts about healthcare information forms
Under the ACA, businesses that provide health insurance to their employees must submit information returns to the IRS and individuals reporting on health coverage. Taxpayers can use the information on these forms when they file their tax returns to verify the months that they had minimum essential coverage and determine if they satisfied the individual shared responsibility provision of the healthcare law. The IRS will use the information on the statements to verify the months of the individual’s coverage. The IRS’s “Health Care Tax Tip 2016-82” provides some information about these information return forms, the purpose of each, and noteworthy dates.

For more information, click here.

Long-term care first principles modeling: Lapse assumptions

In this article, Milliman consultants discuss issues related to developing healthy life lapse rates using a long-term care (LTC) first principles model. As noted throughout the article, the common assumption that the ultimate total life lapse rate reaches a constant level produces an increasing healthy life lapse rate by duration. Alternatively, if the healthy life lapse rate remains constant once it reaches an ultimate level, that would imply that the total life lapse rate continues to decrease over time. The article also examines how mortality and lapse assumptions interact and the importance that developing an appropriate mortality assumption can have on setting lapse rate assumptions.

How the Cures Act affects parity of behavioral health services

perlman_j_danielPresident Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act (Cures Act) into law on December 13. This lengthy bill has gotten attention mostly for its funding of cancer research, reforms to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) drug approval process, funding for opioid addiction treatment, and policies to address suicide prevention and serious mental illnesses. Additionally, there are important provisions related to enforcement of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA).

MHPAEA requires parity of benefits for mental health/substance use (behavioral) conditions and medical/surgical (physical) conditions in health plans that cover both physical and behavioral benefits. It applies to self-funded employer-based plans, and also to insured plans in the large group, small group, and individual markets. MHPAEA applies to quantitative items, such as financial requirements (copays, deductibles, etc.) and some types of treatment limitations (such as annual visit limits). It also applies to nonquantitative items, such as medical management practices and drug formulary design.

The quantitative items have historically received the most attention from health plans and employer plan sponsors, perhaps because there is a clear mathematical test in MHPAEA’s implementing regulations for how to comply. We have seen less attention paid to MHPAEA’s requirements for nonquantitative treatment limitations (NQTLs), where the regulations are less specific. However, NQTLs are just as important in the regulations, and in fact they have been the driving factor behind a number of publicly disclosed enforcement actions under MHPAEA or similar state parity laws.

There are two repeatedly occurring themes throughout the parity-related provisions of the Cures Act. First, the Cures Act seeks to strengthen enforcement of MHPAEA generally. Second, it requires the implementing federal departments (Treasury, Health and Human Services, and Labor) to provide further clarification regarding the NQTL rules under MHPAEA.

Here are key provisions of the Cures Act as related to behavioral health parity:

• The Cures Act requires the departments responsible for enforcement to issue a compliance program guidance document within 12 months. This document should provide concrete examples of what does and does not comply with MHPAEA, including actual examples of findings from investigations. For NQTLs, the examples must provide clear detail to explain the finding of compliance or noncompliance. This document is to be updated every two years with further examples of compliance and noncompliance.

• The law requires the departments to prepare a similar guidance document for health insurers and plan sponsors. This also needs to provide examples of how to comply with the disclosure requirements of MHPAEA. The Cures Act requires the guidance document to provide examples of disclosing information related to what NQTLs there are in a plan, what factors are used to apply an NQTL, and how the plan ensures that they are applied at parity.

• The law enumerates several even more specific types of information for which the departments must provide guidance related to NQTL compliance. For example, the final rules implementing MHPAEA state that in order for an NQTL to be compliant when applied to behavioral services, there must be parity between medical/surgical and behavioral care in the “processes, strategies, evidentiary standards, or other factors used in applying” the NQTL. The Cures Act seeks more clarity and examples regarding the meaning of those terms.

• If a plan issuer or sponsor is found to have violated MHPAEA at least five times, this will trigger an audit by the departments of plan documents in order to help improve compliance. It remains to be seen how “five times” will be defined and interpreted.

• The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is required to produce an “action plan” to improve federal and state coordination of enforcement of MHPAEA.

• For each of the next five years, the departments must submit a report to Congress summarizing the results of all closed federal investigations completed in the past year regarding serious violations of MHPAEA. This report must have detail on how many investigations there were, what benefit classes were examined, what the investigations were about, and how the final decisions were reached.

• The Government Accountability Office (GAO) must prepare a report detailing how well insurers and plan sponsors are complying with MHPAEA. The Cures Act specifically lists NQTL compliance as something to be included in this report, along with a discussion of how well MHPAEA is being enforced.

• There is a brief clarification in the Cures Act that benefits for eating disorders (including residential treatment for eating disorders), if provided, must be provided at parity under MHPAEA.

In short, the Cures Act does not introduce new parity requirements per se, but rather seeks greater clarity and enforcement of existing rules (particularly with respect to NQTLs).

Measuring performance of skilled nursing facilities

The skilled nursing facility (SNF) industry is an important area for Medicare accountable care organizations (ACOs), Medicare Advantage health plans, and other Medicare programs. How can these organizations appropriately benchmark performance to provide efficient healthcare and reduce spending for SNF services?

Milliman’s Jill Herbold and Anders Larson offer some perspective in their report “Performance of skilled nursing facilities for the Medicare population.” The report highlights several utilization and expenditure metrics for measuring SNF performance. It also explores SNF performance levels across the United States and provides a quantitative assessment of the opportunities to reduce spending for SNF services.

Regulatory roundup

More healthcare-related regulatory news for plan sponsors, including links to detailed information.

Final rule on health insurance premium tax credit
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released a final rule relating to the health insurance premium tax credit (premium tax credit). These final regulations affect individuals who enroll in qualified health plans through health insurance exchanges and claim the premium tax credit, and exchanges that make qualified health plans available to individuals and employers.

These final regulations also affect individuals who are eligible for employer-sponsored health coverage.

To read the entire rule, click here.

New HHS report details impact of the Affordable Care Act
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released an extensive compilation of national and state-level data illustrating the substantial improvements in healthcare for all Americans in the last six years. According to the HHS data, the uninsured rate has fallen to the lowest level on record, and 20 million Americans have gained coverage thanks to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). But beyond those people who would otherwise be uninsured, millions of Americans with employer, Medicaid, Medicare, or individual market coverage have benefited from new protections as a result of the law.

To access the report, click here.

Guide for electronically filing ACA Information Returns (AIR) for software developers and transmitters
A new IRS publication outlines the communication procedures, transmission formats, business rules, and validation procedures for information returns transmitted electronically through the AIR system.

For more information, click here.

DoL issues final rule on claims procedures for disability benefits
The U.S. Department of Labor (DoL) released a final regulation revising the claims procedure regulations under ERISA for employee benefit plans providing disability benefits. The final rule revises and strengthens the current rules primarily by adopting certain procedural protections and safeguards for disability benefit claims that are currently applicable to claims for group health benefits pursuant to the ACA. This rule affects plan administrators, participants, and beneficiaries of plans providing disability benefits, and others who assist in the provision of these benefits, such as third-party benefits administrators and other service providers.

To read the final rule, click here.