October was a busy month in the employee benefits world. President Trump announced a new Acting Secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Eric Hargan fills the position vacated by Tom Price, who resigned in late September 2017. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a proposed rule to delay a disability claims procedure regulation's applicability date and HHS released its proposed rule on benefits and payment parameters for 2019. The U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury) issued its Priority Guidance Plan for projects it intends to complete during the first half of 2018.
DOL Proposes Delay to Final Disability Claims Procedures Regulations' Applicability Date
The DOL issued a proposed rule to delay the applicability date of its final rule that amends the claims procedure requirements applicable to ERISA-covered employee benefit plans that provide disability benefits. The DOL's Fact Sheet contains a summary of the final rule's requirements.
The DOL is delaying the applicability date from January 1, 2018, to April 1, 2018, to consider whether to rescind, modify, or retain the regulations and to give the public an additional opportunity to submit comments and data concerning the final rule's potential impact.
CMS Releases 2019 Benefits Payment and Parameters Proposed Rule
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released a proposed rule and fact sheet for the 2019 Benefit Payment and Parameters. The proposed rule is intended to increase individual market flexibility, improve program integrity, and reduce regulatory burdens associated with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) in many ways, including updates and annual provisions to:
- Essential health benefits
- Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP)
- Special enrollment periods (SEPs)
- Termination effective dates
- Medical loss ratio (MLR)
CMS usually finalizes the Benefit Payment and Parameters rule in the first quarter of the year following the proposed rule's release. November 27, 2017, is the due date for public comments on the proposed rule.
Almost all the topics addressed in the proposed rule would affect the individual market and the Exchanges, particularly the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Exchanges.
Of interest to small group health plans, CMS proposes to change how states will select essential health benefits benchmark plans. If CMS keeps this change in its final rule, then it will affect non-grandfathered small group health plans for benefit years 2019 and beyond.
Treasury Issues its Priority Guidance Plan
The Treasury issued its 2017-2018 Priority Guidance Plan that lists projects that it intends to complete by June 30, 2018, including:
- Guidance on issues related to the employer shared responsibility provisions
- Regulations regarding the excise tax on high cost employer-provided coverage ("Cadillac tax")
- Guidance on Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangements (QSE HRAs)