By Anita F. Baker, CPA, CEBS
As the third year of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) approaches, employers need to be aware of additional fees that will be assessed on insurers and plan administrators of self-insured plans beginning in 2013. In addition, reporting health care costs to the government begins.
The new fees will increase the cost of providing group health plans for employees. They include:
- Fees to fund research on patient-centered outcomes
- Transitional reinsurance fees
- Pay or play penalties
- Cadillac tax
Fees to fund research on patient-centered outcomes
Health care reform created the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), which is charged with promoting research to evaluate and compare the health outcomes and clinical effectiveness, risks, and benefits of medical treatments, services, procedures, and drugs. PCORI is to be funded in part by fees assessed on health insurers and sponsors of self-insured group health plans. This fee is commonly referred to as the "comparative effectiveness fee" or "PCORI fee." The PCORI fee will be assessed at $1.00 times the average number of covered lives (employees and dependents) for the first plan or policy year ending on or after October 1, 2012. Employer plan sponsors must choose a method for calculating the average number of covered lives for their required annual fees by December 31, 2012, for calendar year plans.
Transitional reinsurance fees
The transitional reinsurance program will require health insurance issuers, as well as certain plan administrators on behalf of self-insured group health plans, to make contributions to a transitional reinsurance program for the three-year period beginning January 1, 2014. This fee is likely to result in additional costs for employer plan sponsors and - depending on whether the plan at issue is self-administered - certain additional reporting obligations.
Pay or play penalties
In 2014, large employers with fifty or more full-time equivalent employees could be subject to two potential penalties: the No Coverage Penalty and the Unaffordable Coverage Penalty. The No Insurance Penalty subjects certain employers to a $2,000 per full-time employee penalty (excluding the first thirty full-time employees) under specific conditions. The Unaffordable Coverage Penalty applies if an employer offers its full-time employees the opportunity to enroll in coverage under an employer plan that either is unaffordable (relative to an employee's household income) or does not provide minimum value. This penalty is $3,000 for every full-time employee who receives a subsidy for coverage in a state exchange.
In some cases, the total cost of these penalties may be less than the total cost of providing coverage. CliftonLarsonAllen's Health Insurance and Penalty Calculator provides information about the impact of reform on individual companies.
Starting in 2018, insurers of employer-sponsored plans or companies that self-insure their own plans will be subject to an excise tax if their premiums are in excess of $10,200 for individual coverage and $27,500 for family coverage. Roughly 60 percent of large employers believe their plans would trigger the tax unless they take action to avoid it, according to a 2011 survey by Mercer, a human resources consulting firm. Although the tax is to be imposed on insurers, the effects are likely to trickle down to consumers.
Many health care reform provisions will impact the cost to provide health care coverage for employees. Employers should be aware of the additional fees and reporting requirements and work with their benefits consultants to determine the financial impact of health care on their businesses. Plan sponsors should have already verified that they have the systems in place to determine and report the aggregate cost of applicable employer-sponsored coverage for 2012 on employees' Forms W-2.
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About the author:
Anita F. Baker, CPA, CEBS is a partner with CliftonLarsonAllen, a national accounting and consulting firm with ninety offices across the country. Based in Arizona, Baker leads the firm's employee benefit plan practice group. CliftonLarsonAllen is the fourth-largest auditor of employee benefit plans in the United States and audits more than 2,000 plans.