Cures Act Sent to President Obama to Provide HRA Relief for Small Businesses

The 21st Century Cures Act is headed to President Obama’s desk and is expected to be signed into law effective January 1, 2017.

While the Act addresses a number of items, of particular significance to brokers is a provision that removes qualified small employer (fewer than 50 full-time employees) health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) from the definition of a “group health plan.” Following IRS guidance in 2014 and 2015, brokers had been limited in their ability to assist employers who wished to reimburse employees for the purchase of individual health insurance.

Under the Act, qualified HRAs may be used to assist employees in purchasing coverage on the individual market. However, arrangements must meet a number of criteria to be considered a qualified reimbursement arrangement.

For example, annual benefits under qualified HRAs cannot exceed an indexed maximum of $4,950 per year ($10,000 if family members are covered), must be employer-funded, and can only be used for qualified medical expenses. Also, the HRA benefits must also be offered on the same terms to all “eligible employees.”

Employees covered under a qualified HRA will be ineligible for subsidies for policies purchased through the health insurance exchanges.

The Act also contains significant changes for Medicare Open Enrollment beginning in 2019. The Act provides that Medicare-eligible individuals may make a one-time change during the first three months of any year to another Medicare Advantage plan, elect original Medicare fee-for-service program, or to elect coverage under Part D.

The full text of the bill can be accessed here.

Cornerstone will continue to provide updates as provisions of this Act are implemented.

For more information, contact your Cornerstone representative.



Repeal of the ACA May Not Benefit Employer-Sponsored Health Plans

Benefits Pro reported that employer-sponsored health plans may not benefit from the repeal of the ACA. A Bloomberg report by Greta E. Cowart notes that employers may have to return money received from retiree reinsurance program and other government-sponsored initiatives, and that many of the mandates on what should be included in these plans that weren’t exempted nor grandfathered will be difficult to take out of the plans.


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Obamacare May Be Repealed Before Replacement is Arranged

According to the Associated Press, Congress may vote to repeal Obamacare before arranging  replacement legislation. GOP representatives expect that repealing the health care law without a replacement would encourage representatives from both parties to cooperate in quickly finding a replacement policy that benefits all.


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President-Elect Trump Nominates Price for HHS Chief

According to Benefits Pro, President-elect Donald Trump has decided to nominate U.S. Representative Tom Price as the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Price has been a key figure in the attempt to pass legislation repealing and replacing Obamacare.

“There is much work to be done to ensure we have a healthcare system that works for patients, families, and doctors; that leads the world in the cure and prevention of illness; and that is based on sensible rules to protect the well-being of the country while embracing its innovation spirit,” Price said in a statement.

The President-elect also announced his nomination of Seema Verma as the administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Read the full story here.

New Jersey Residents May Lose Coverage if Trump Cuts Medicaid


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Confusion Among Buyers with Medicare Advantage Plans and Networks

The Wall Street Journal reports that there may be some confusion with Medicare Advantage plans among buyers, especially in determining which hospitals are included in the plans’ networks. A report from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation finds that incorrect and confusing information in plan directories is leading to difficulty in navigating the plans.

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Repealing Obamacare May Be More Complex Than Expected

Politico reports that President-elect Donald Trump and the GOP’s promise to repeal Obamacare without a replacement program underway may cause health insurers to prematurely bolt from the individual market and increase premiums.


Read the full article here.

Bill Presented from GOP to Block Payments to Obamacare Insurers

The Hill reports that four Republican lawmakers have presented a bill to block the Obama administration from making payments to Obamacare insurers. The bill would prevent the administration from using an obscure fund to pay legal settlements to insurers. With the election of President-elect Donald Trump, the bill has lost some prevalence, though the Republican lawmakers still want to be sure payments will not be made to insurers during the repeal of Obamacare.


To read the full story, click here.

Obamacare Could Remain In Force Through 2017

Cleveland local news reports that healthcare authorities are encouraging coverage with Obamacare, noting that any changes to the existing program will likely roll out in 2018. For now, the Ohio Department of Insurance plans to operate as if nothing about current healthcare legislation has changed.

To read the full story, click here.