by Amy M. Gordon and Jamie A. Weyeneth
Under Health Care Reform, for plan years starting on or after September 23, 2010, health plans may impose only "restricted annual limits" on essential health benefits as defined by Health and Human Services (HHS). All annual limits are prohibited for plan years starting on or after January 1, 2014. HHS issued guidance for health plans seeking a waiver of the restricted annual limit for plan years beginning before January 1, 2014. On August 19, 2011, HHS released guidance exempting all health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) that were in effect on September 23, 2010, from applying for a restricted annual limit waiver. This guidance effectively excuses existing HRAs (including stand-alone HRAs) from complying with the restricted annual limit on essential health benefits for all plan years beginning before January 1, 2014.