US District Court for DC Rules Payment of Some ACA Subsidies are Unconstitutional without Separate Appropriation

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has ruled that certain Affordable Care Act subsidies designed to reduce deductibles, co-pays, and other means of “cost sharing” by insurers cannot be paid unless they are separately appropriated by Congress.  U.S. House of Representatives v. Burwell, et al., (2016, DC DC), Civil Action No. 14-1967 (RMC).

The case involves two sections of the Affordable Care Act: 1401 and 1402. Section 1401 provides tax credits to make insurance premiums more affordable, while Section 1402 reduces deductibles, co-pays, and other means of “cost sharing” by insurers. Section 1401 is codified at 26 U.S.C. 36B (in the tax code) and was funded by adding it to a preexisting list of permanently-appropriated tax credits and refunds.

Section 1402 was not added to that list. The court ruled that Section 1402, which is codified in Title 42, which includes federal laws concerning “Public Health and Welfare” cannot be funded through the same, permanent appropriation as Section 1401. Instead, Section 1402 reimbursements must be funded annually.

The Court ruled that by paying out the subsidies without the necessary appropriation, the Administration violated Article I, Section 9, clause 7 of the  U.S. Constitution, which provides that “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law . . . .”

The Court enjoined payment of the reimbursements, but stayed its ruling pending appeal.  Therefore, the short term effect is that that reimbursements will continue while the case is on appeal.  A decision from the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit on appeal will likely take months.

More …   U.S. House of Representatives v. Burwell, et al., (2016, DC DC), Civil Action No. 14-1967 (RMC).

IRS Announces 2017 Inflation Adjusted Amounts for Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)

The IRS has announced 2017 HSA limits as follows:

Annual contribution limitation. For calendar year 2017, the annual imitation on deductions under § 223(b)(2)(A) for an individual with self-only coverage under a high deductible health plan is $3,400 (up from $3,350 in 2016), and the annual limitation on deductions under § 223(b)(2)(B) for an individual with family coverage under a high deductible health plan is $6,750 (unchanged from 2016).

High deductible health plan. For calendar year 2017, a “high deductible health plan” is defined under § 223(c)(2)(A) as a health plan with an annual deductible that is not less than $1,300 for self-only coverage or $2,600 for family coverage (both unchanged from 2016), and the
annual out-of-pocket expenses (deductibles, co-payments, and other amounts, but not premiums) do not exceed $6,550 for self-only coverage or $13,100 for family coverage (also unchanged from 2016).

Rev. Proc. 2016-28

OCR Launches Phase 2 of HIPAA Audit Program

As a part of its continued efforts to assess compliance with the HIPAA Privacy, Security and Breach Notification Rules, the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has begun its next phase of audits of covered entities and their business associates.

In its 2016 Phase 2 HIPAA Audit Program, OCR will review the policies and procedures adopted and employed by covered entities and their business associates to meet selected standards and implementation specifications of the Privacy, Security, and Breach Notification Rules. These audits will primarily be desk audits, although some on-site audits will be conducted.

The 2016 audit process begins with verification of an entity’s address and contact information. An email is being sent to covered entities and business associates requesting that contact information be provided to OCR in a timely manner. OCR will then transmit a pre-audit questionnaire to gather data about the size, type, and operations of potential auditees; this data will be used with other information to create potential audit subject pools.

The OCR’s detailed audit protcol is available here.

If an entity does not respond to OCR’s request to verify its contact information or pre-audit questionnaire, OCR will use publically available information about the entity to create its audit subject pool. Therefore an entity that does not respond to OCR may still be selected for an audit or subject to a compliance review.

To learn more about OCR’s Phase 2 Audit program, click on one of the links below:

When Will the Next Round of Audits Commence?

Who Will Be Audited?

On What Basis Will Auditees Be Selected?

How Will the Selection Process Work?

How Will the Audit Program Work?

What if an Entity Doesn’t Respond to OCR’s Requests for Information?

What is the General Timeline for an Audit?

What Happens After an Audit?

How Will Consumers Be Affected?

Will Audits Differ Depending on the Size and Type of Participants?

Will Auditors Look at State-Specific Privacy and Security Rules in Addition to HIPAA’s Privacy, Security, and Breach Notification Rules?

Who is Responsible for Paying the On-Site Auditors?

IRS Notice 2015-87 Provides Further Guidance on the Application of ACA Market Reforms to Employer Payment Plans, Employer Mandate and COBRA

On December 16, 2015, the Department of Treasury and IRS issued Notice 2015-87 which provides further guidance on the application of the market reforms that apply to group health plans under the Affordable care Act (ACA) to various types of employer health care arrangements. The notice includes guidance that covers:

(1) health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs), including HRAs integrated with a group health plan, and similar employer-funded health care arrangements; and

(2) group health plans under which an employer reimburses an employee for some or all of the premium expenses incurred for an individual health insurance policy, such as a reimbursement arrangement described in Revenue Ruling 61-146, or an arrangement under which the employer uses its funds to directly pay the premium for an individual health insurance policy covering the employee (collectively, an employer payment plan).  The notice supplements the guidance provided in Notice 2013-54; FAQs about the Affordable Care Act Implementation (Part XXII) issued by the Department of Labor on November 6, 2014; Notice 2015-17; and final regulations implementing the market reform provisions of the ACA published on November 18, 2015.

iconsee our previous post on this topic.

Notice 2015-87 also clarifies certain aspects of the employer shared responsibility provisions of § 4980H, and  clarifies the application of the COBRA continuation coverage rules to unused amounts in a health flexible spending arrangement (health FSA) carried over and available in later years pursuant to Notice 2013-71, and conditions that may be put on the use of carryover amounts.