PPACA requires health insurers to maintain specific loss ratios. If an insurer spends more than 20% on non claims related expenses, they need to provide rebates to the insureds. (15% for large employers). Sounds great!
This portion of PPACA went into effect for premiums paid starting 1-1-2011. The deadline for calculating and returning your overpaid 2011 premiums is August 1, 2012. Many of you have already seen communications letting you know where your insurer stands on this issue.
Employers need to start thinking about how they are going to handle this refund check. For some employers this may not be a daunting task. For others, not so easy. You need to remember that premiums are plan assets and need to work for the member of the plans. The law does NOT allow the employer to pocket those premium refunds unless the employer paid 100% of the premiums with no employee contribution. Let’s consider some of the rules for the use of these rebates when any level of employee contribution is involved.
The employer has three options when dealing with the rebate. Simply stated, they can offer:
- A Cash rebate
- A Reduction in future employee contributions
- An Increase in future benefits
The DOL is discouraging Options 2 and 3 unless the cash rebate is just too expensive to process.
You aren’t going to cut everyone a check and be done with this. Premiums that were originally deducted from the employees paycheck on a pre-tax basis will be given back to them as a taxable event. If you use it to reduce future premium deductions, you will save that accounting step. Either way, it’s fairly easy for you to deal with.
The fun part for employers is going to be deciding how to divvy up the money. The money must be returned to the employee proportionally the way the premium was collected. Also, the money has to go back only to the employees that were participating in the plan that is providing the rebate. Let’s say you have two insurers in play and both of them give you a rebate. Of course the rebates won’t be the same. Your process needs to go like this, per carrier:
- Who will get a rebate? You will need to go back and see who was on the plan IN 2011. Don’t fall into the trap of looking at your current invoices. You have certainly experienced open enrollment and some employees have changed coverage.
- How were they covered? Were they in the same bracket all year? Did they add dependents? Did they experience an age change? You can’t look at one invoice to determine their annual contributions. You can’t even look at the payroll unless it specifies the insurer for each employee each month (if more than one insurer is in play).
- Terminated employee money does not have to be returned to the terminated employee. But, it does have to be evenly distributed the remaining employees still participating in that plan.
- How will you distribute this rebate to them? Cash or reduction in future payroll deductions.
The insane thing about this process is that rebates are expected to be very small. Even in States with really inept actuaries, average rebates are expected to average $44 per employee for small groups and $14 for large groups. That is a ridiculous amount of work for the benefit. But employers must rebate the money.
Individual policyholders have to pay a bit of attention as well? If the individual paid for their health insurance with post tax dollars, there is nothing to discuss. Cash the check. But if the you wrote off your health insurance premiums, you will now need to pay tax on the returned premium. Again, a ridiculous exercise for a small amount of money.
As the June 25th SCOTUS expected opinion date looms closer, employer must continue to plan as if everything is staying in place. PPACA’s impact on employers and the added responsibility to follow numerous new regulatory hurdles is not something you want to be scurrying around for this fall. Be prepared, pay attention and be prepared to act.
In our next blog we are going to review what we already know about the W-2 regulations that will be in effect for all W-2’s issued after 1-1-13. (for 2012 tax year)
Paula L. Wilson, RHU, REBC
Elections have consequences!