On January 14, 2019, US District Judge Wendy Beetlestone in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania issued a nationwide preliminary injunction blocking the Trump administration’s carveouts to the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) contraceptive coverage mandate. One day prior, US District Judge Haywood Gilliam in the US District Court for the Northern District of California issued a more limited injunction blocking the same carve outs from taking effect in 13 states plus the District of Columbia.

On October 6, 2017, the Trump administration issued rules that are the subject of these two decisions. The rules would have allowed employers to raise religious and moral objections to avoid the ACA’s requirement that contraceptive coverage be provided without cost sharing under their group health plans. Under the ACA, certain contraceptive products and services are included in the list of preventive services that must be covered by most group health plans without cost sharing. The available exemptions to this rule were limited.

Judge Beetlestone reasoned that the loss of contraceptive coverage would have resulted in “significant” and “proprietary harm” to the states by causing increased use of state-funded contraceptive services, along with increased costs associated with unintended pregnancies. Without the preliminary injunction, the Trump administration’s rules would have gone into effect on January 14, 2019. The preliminary injunction does not permanently block the rules, but rather it stops the rules from going into effect while legal challenges are being pursued. Judge Beetlestone indicated that she is likely to invalidate the rules, stating that the US Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and Treasury exceeded the scope of their authority under the ACA by issuing the carve outs.

Charnae Supplee, a law clerk in the Firm’s Washington, DC office, also contributed to this post. 

New proposed guidance on mental health parity issued last month spotlights the complexities of these rules. Join us for out next Fridays with Benefits webinar on June 1 as Jacob M. Mattinson and Judith Wethall discuss the impact these rules will have on group health plans and how to determine if your plan complies. Find out about recent litigation and agency enforcement actions.

Friday, June 1st, 2018
10:00 – 10:45 am PDT
11:00 – 11:45 am MDT
12:00 – 12:45 pm CDT
1:00 – 1:45 pm EDT

Register now.  

On January 22, 2018, Congress passed an interim funding bill to end the three-day government shutdown that also pushed back the effective date of the Affordable Care Act’s controversial “Cadillac Tax.”  The Cadillac Tax imposes an excise tax on group health plans that provide benefits in excess of certain thresholds.  The new legislation pushes the effective date back an additional two years to January 1, 2022.

President Obama has signed the 21st Century Cures Act, Pub. L. No. 114-225 (Dec. 13, 2016). As we previously mentioned, the new legislation permits small employers (those that are not considered applicable large employers under the Affordable Care Act (ACA)) to maintain general-purpose stand-alone Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs) if they do not offer a group health plan to any of their employees. Stand-alone HRAs were not permitted based on ACA guidance. Annual benefits under these new HRAs cannot exceed an indexed maximum of $4,950 per year ($10,000 if family members are covered), must be funded solely by employer contributions (employee contributions are not permitted), and can only be used for the reimbursement of Internal Revenue Code §213(d) medical care expenses.

The U.S. Departments of Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services (the Departments) recently issued new guidance regarding the intended timeframe for the use of the new summary of benefits and coverage (SBC) template and instructions, an updated uniform glossary and other associated materials.

Background

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) generally requires group health plans and health insurance issuers offering group or individual health insurance coverage to provide an SBC to participants and beneficiaries. The Departments issued revised final regulations governing the SBC requirement on June 16, 2015, and published a proposed new SBC template on February 26, 2016. Comments on the proposed template and associated documents are due by March 28, 2016.

Read the full article.

by Amy M. Gordon, Susan M. Nash and Jacob Mattinson

As part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently released final regulations regarding the transitional reinsurance program fee effective in CY 2014.  Effective May 10, 2013, the regulations address the estimated amount of annual contributions that will be paid to HHS from employer-sponsored group health plans, the types of welfare plans that are subject to the fee, the applicability of the fee to COBRA coverage and the treatment of certain retiree benefits.

To read the full article, click here.