Tag Archive: health exchange marketplace

Short, long term changes could bode well for small group market

The small employer group market will be changing over the short and long term. Both changes could bolster the market segment as well as the Small Employer Health Options Program (SHOP) within the state health benefit exchange marketplace, which is seen by some as facing competition from the individual plan exchange marketplace.

Over the immediate short term, small group plans will be able to be sold with higher deductible limits under legislation signed last week by President Barack Obama. Section 213 of H.R. 4302 repeals a provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act at Section 1302(c)(2) limiting small group plan deductibles to $2,000 for individuals and $4,000 for families. The repeal is effective April 1, 2014 and is available to all plan year 2014 small group plans. The deductible limits presented a challenge to health plan issuers wishing to offer small group plans with bronze metal tier actuarial value that on average pay 60 percent of covered medical services.

The Employers Council on Flexible Compensation (ECFC), which said it joined forces with several other organizations to successfully lobby for the repeal of the provision, said the repeal of the limit will allow small employers to continue to provide affordable medical insurance to their employees, including flexible compensation options such as FSAs, HRAs, and HSAs while enabling employees to set aside tax advantaged dollars to help pay for their health care out-of-pocket and deductible expenses. Click here for the ECFC’s news release.

Over the longer term, the small group market will in all states be uniformly defined as plans sold to employers with up to 100 employees beginning with plan year 2016. For plan years 2014 and 2015, Section 1304(b)(3) of the Affordable Care Act gives states the option to define their small group market as plans sold to employers of 50 or fewer employees.

 


Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email fpilot@pilothealthstrategies.com or call 530-295-1473. 

New Mexico exchange to apply stringent project management standards to launch of 2015 individual marketplace

Following pervasive IT and project management failures dogging the rollout of the health benefit exchange marketplace, the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange is acting to limit that risk with when it begins offering individual plans for plan year 2015 enrollment starting in October.

The exchange will employ standardized project management principles including quality control and risk management oversight of its IT and project management vendors. The goal is to ensure the exchange is on track to meet federal requirements to operate as a state-based exchange and prepared to enroll individuals in qualified health plans by October 1, 2014. The exchange has issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for independent verification and validation services that can be viewed here.

The New Mexico exchange opted to wait a year before operating an individual marketplace, defaulting to the federal government for plan year 2014 while operating its own small business marketplace.

 


Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email fpilot@pilothealthstrategies.com or call 530-295-1473. 

The next IT challenge for the health benefit exchange marketplace

In addition to the grueling IT challenge state health benefit exchanges have faced processing the initial surge of enrollments for 2014 coverage for individuals and small employers, their next IT test will be how well they serve as agents of the federal Internal Revenue Service.

The exchanges provide a critical tax reporting and monitoring function for the IRS, reporting small employer contributions to exchange qualified health plans (QHPs) offered their workers and advance income tax credits to subsidize QHPs purchased by individuals. The exchanges also track and report changes in monthly income of households purchasing tax-subsidized QHPs. Finally, the exchanges are charged with processing requests under the various exemption categories specified in the Affordable Care Act that allow individuals to avoid tax penalties for not having health coverage starting in 2014 or to qualify to purchase catastrophic plans.

The key test will be how well the exchanges work on an ongoing basis to obtain and process taxpayer reported data and interface with IRS data obtained through the federal data services hub that serves both federally operated and state-based exchanges. How proficiently and accurately the exchanges execute that function isn’t likely to be fully known until early 2015 when individuals and small businesses file their 2014 tax returns. That’s also when individuals must reconcile amounts they received as advance tax credits reported by the exchanges to purchase exchange-based plans with their actual earnings.

Presumably performing this critical tax function will be easier in the nearly three dozen states where the federal government is operating the exchanges. But with the IT snags in the enrollment process, there can be no guarantees it will go smoothly.

 


Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email fpilot@pilothealthstrategies.com or call 530-295-1473. 

Small group most voluntary market segment under ACA – and faces unique viability risks

Of the three major health insurance market segments – large group, small group and individual – small group is the most voluntary market under Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act rules that take effect January 1, 2014.

Large employers, defined by the ACA as employing 50 or more full time workers, are subject to the employer shared responsibility requirement to offer coverage to nearly of these employees. All individuals must have some form of health coverage under pain of a tax penalty for going bare. Small employers on the other hand have the greatest degree of freedom of choice as to whether to play in the small group market.

The ACA strengthens the functionality of the small group market with several provisions. It eliminates risk rating of small employers by health plan issuers. The ACA also enhances the risk pooling power of small employers by combining them into single statewide risk pools. Finally, the law affords small employers the purchasing power of large employers through the Small Employer Health Options Program (SHOP) of the state health benefit exchange marketplace. The SHOP also serves as a benefit administrator of sorts for small employers, helping them select plans and billing them for monthly premiums.

The extent to which these reforms work as intended to shore up the small group market will become clearer over the next few years. There are several factors that could result in the leakage of potential covered lives out of the small group market, potentially adversely affecting the viability of the small group pool and the SHOP, particularly if a significant number of small employers now offering health coverage to their employees adopt them. They include:

  • Opting to participate in “private” exchanges set up by health benefit plan administrators and insurance brokerages instead of the SHOP
  • Offering a defined contribution benefit or stipend to help workers buy their own coverage on the state exchange individual marketplace instead of directly offering coverage
  • Self-insuring for employee health care costs.
 


Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email fpilot@pilothealthstrategies.com or call 530-295-1473. 

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