Do you offer health coverage to your employees? Does your group health plan cover outpatient prescription drugs? If so, federal law requires you to complete an online disclosure form every year with information about your plan’s drug coverage. You have 60 days from the start of your health plan year to complete the form. For instance, for a calendar-year health plan, this year’s deadline is March 1, 2018.


The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is a federal agency that collects data and administers various federal programs. The agency utilizes the CMS online tool to collect information from employers about whether their group health plan’s prescription drug coverage is creditable or noncreditable. Creditable coverage means the group health plan’s prescription drug coverage is actuarially equivalent to Medicare’s Part D drug plans. In other words, the group plan is considered creditable if its drug benefits are as good as or better than Medicare’s benefits.

To confirm whether your plan provides creditable or noncreditable coverage, check with the plan’s carrier or HMO (if insured) or the plan’s actuary (if self-funded). CMS provides guidance to help plan sponsors, carriers, and actuaries determine the plan’s status.

Deadline for Disclosure

All group health plans that include any outpatient prescription drug benefits, regardless of whether the plan is insured, self-funded, grandfathered, or nongrandfathered, must complete the CMS disclosure requirement. There is no exception for small employers.

Complete the CMS online disclosure form every year within 60 days of the start of the plan year. For instance, for calendar-year plans, this year’s deadline is March 1, 2018.

Additionally, if your plan terminates or its status changes between creditable and noncreditable coverage, you must disclose the updated information to CMS within 30 days of the change.

Completing the Disclosure Form

The CMS online tool is the only method allowed for completing the required disclosure. From this link, follow the prompts to respond to a series of questions regarding the plan. The link is the same regardless of whether the employer’s plan provides creditable or noncreditable coverage.

The entire process usually takes only 5 or 10 minutes to complete. To save time, have the following information handy before you start filling in the form:

  • Information about the plan sponsor (employer): Name, address, phone number, and federal Employer Identification Number (EIN).
  • Number of prescription drug options offered (e.g., if employer offers two plan options with different benefit levels, the number is “2”).
  • Creditable/Noncreditable Offer: Indicate whether all options are creditable or noncreditable or whether some are creditable and others are noncreditable.
  • Plan year beginning and ending dates.
  • Estimated number of plan participants eligible for Medicare (and how many are participants in the employer’s retiree health plan, if any).
  • Date that the plan’s Notice of Creditable (or Noncreditable) Coverage was provided to participants.
  • Name, title, and email address of the employer’s authorized individual completing the disclosure.

We suggest you print a copy of the completed disclosure to keep for your records.

Note: Employers that receive the Retiree Drug Subsidy (RDS), or sponsor health plans that contract directly with one or more Medicare Part D plans, should seek the advice of legal counsel regarding the applicable disclosure requirements.

Additional Disclosure Requirement

Separate from the CMS online disclosure requirement, employers also must distribute a disclosure notice to Medicare-eligible group health plan participants. The deadline for distributing the participant notice is October 14 of the preceding year. It often is difficult for employers to identify which employees and spouses may be Medicare-eligible, so most employers simply distribute the notice to all participants regardless of age or status. For information about the notice requirement, see our previous post.


Originally Published By

As the first month of 2018 wraps up, companies have already begun the arduous task of submitting budgets and finding ways to cut costs for the new year. One of the most effective ways to combat increasing health care costs for companies is to move to a Self-Funded insurance plan. By paying for claims out-of-pocket instead of paying a premium to an insurance carrier, companies can save around 20% in administration costs and state taxes. That’s quite a cost savings!

The topic of Self-Funding is huge and so we want to break it down into smaller bites for you to digest. This month we want to tackle a basic introduction to Self-Funding and in the coming months, we will cover the benefits, risks, and the stop-loss associated with this type of plan.


  • When the employer assumes the financial risk for providing health care benefits to its employees, this is called Self-Funding.
  • Self-Funded plans allow the employer to tailor the benefits plan design to best suit their employees. Employers can look at the demographics of their workforce and decide which benefits would be most utilized as well as cut benefits that are forecasted to be underutilized.
  • While previously most used by large companies, small and mid-sized companies, even with as few as 25 employees, are seeing cost benefits to moving to Self-Funded insurance plans.
  • Companies pay no state premium taxes on self-funded expenditures. This savings is around 5% – 3/5% depending on in which state the company operates.
  • Since employers are paying for claims, they have access to claims data. While keeping within HIPAA privacy guidelines, the employer can identify and reach out to employees with certain at-risk conditions (diabetes, heart disease, stroke) and offer assistance with combating these health concerns. This also allows greater population-wide health intervention like weight loss programs and smoking cessation assistance.
  • Companies typically hire third-party administrators (TPA) to help design and administer the insurance plans. This allows greater control of the plan benefits and claims payments for the company.

As you can see, Self-Funding has many facets. It’s important to gather as much information as you can and weigh the benefits and risks of moving from a Fully-Funded plan for your company to a Self-Funded one. Doing your research and making the move to a Self-Funded plan could help you gain greater control over your healthcare costs and allow you to design an original plan that best fits your employees.

Do I need life insurance once I retire? Just because you’re retired doesn’t necessarily mean you’re financially sound.

Think of all the different scenarios that may still be applicable: You may have been required to retire early; you may have had investments that have gone sour and haven’t had time to rebuild your nest egg. Additionally, there may be a need to cover final expenses, you may have children still at home who depend on the them, or you may have a family member like an aging parent or special-needs sibling that you provide financial support for.

The bottom line is this: If you owe someone, love someone, or someone depends on on you financially, you need life insurance. And just because you’re retired or old doesn’t mean those three things go away.

Do I need the same amount of life insurance coverage as I did before? If you bought the life insurance to replace income and have built up their investments, maybe not.

Then again, if you have built up their investments over the years, there may be some state or federal inheritance tax that will have to be paid upon their death. And even if there is no federal tax, there may still be significant state inheritance tax. There are also things like probate costs, administration costs; there might be final debt or a mortgage on house, too. So as long as there is some type of financial exposure, you need life insurance to match up with that.

If I don’t have one, is it still possible to buy a policy in retirement? Absolutely. Just because you’re old or older doesn’t mean you’re uninsurable.

I just got a call from someone doing planning for the family patriarch who’s 85 years old. They realized that right now, the estate is worth more than the combined amount of federal exemption and that there will be tax to pay. That’s where life insurance comes in, at less than a dollar for each dollar of tax.

Another reason to have the coverage is if someone has taken 100% pay-out on their pension, with no survivorship provision. If that person dies, no money gets paid out to the surviving spouse. This is more common than you think. Nor is it unusual to hear that someone remarries and forgets to change the pension beneficiary. Life insurance can ensure that the spouse is taken care of.

What else should I know about having life insurance in retirement? People don’t often talk about the living benefits of life insurance.

Let’s say you no longer need the death benefit, but are living with a lingering, terminal illness and may not have sufficient cash to pay medical expenses. The accelerated death benefit provision means you can go to the insurance company and pull down money from the policy to absorb the costs of that illness and avoid bankruptcy.

A permanent life insurance policy is also a place to put money aside that gives you a better rate of return than a low pay-out CD or putting money in a safely deposit box. It’s a way to have some safe money invested at no risk—it’s just there for when you need it.

By Marvin H. Feldman
Originally Published By

It was recently unveiled the latest findings from our 2017 Health Plan Survey. With data on 20,099 health plans sponsored by 11,221 employers, the UBA survey is nearly three times larger than the next two of the nation’s largest health plan benchmarking surveys combined. To learn more, watch this short video below.

When most experts think of group healthcare plans, Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans largely come to mind—though higher cost, they dominate the market in terms of plan distribution and employee enrollment. But Consumer-Directed Health Plans (CDHPs) have made surprising gains. Despite slight cost increases, CDHP costs are still below average and prevalence and enrollment in these plans continues to grow in most regions—a main reason why it was one of the top 7 survey trends recently announced.

In 2017, 28.6% of all plans are CDHPs. Regionally, CDHPs account for the following percentage of plans offered:

Prevalence of CDHP Plans

CDHPs have increased in prevalence in all regions except the West. The North Central U.S. saw the greatest increase (13.2%) in the number of CDHPs offered. Looking at size and industry variables, several groups are flocking to CDHPs:

Regional offering of CDHPs

When it comes to enrollment, 31.5% of employees enroll in CDHP plans overall, an increase of 19.3% from 2016, after last year’s stunning increase of 21.7% from 2015. CDHPs see the most enrollment in the North Central U.S. at 46.3%, an increase of 40.7% over 2016. For yet another year in the Northeast, CDHP prevalence and enrollment are nearly equal; CDHP prevalence doesn’t always directly correlate to the number of employees who choose to enroll in them. Though the West held steady in the number of CDHPs offered, there was a 2.6% decrease in the number of employees enrolled. The 12.6% increase in CDHP prevalence in the North Central U.S. garnered a large 40.7% increase in enrollment. CDHP interest among employers isn’t surprising given these plans are less costly than the average plan. But like all cost benchmarks, plan design plays a major part in understanding value. The UBA survey finds the average CDHP benefits are as follows:

CDHP benefits

By Bill Olson
Originally Published By United Benefit Advisors

Recently, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued the instructions for Forms 1094/1095 for the 2017 tax year, announced PCORI fees for 2017-18, and announced cost-of-living adjustments for 2018. The IRS provided additional guidance on leave-based donation programs’ tax treatment and released an information letter on COBRA and Medicare. Here’s a recap of these actions for your reference.IRS Announces Cost-of-Living Adjustments for 2018

The IRS released Revenue Procedures 2017-58 and Notice 2017-64 to announce cost-of-living adjustments for 2018. For example, the dollar limit on voluntary employee salary reductions for contributions to health flexible spending accounts (FSAs) is $2,650, for taxable years beginning with 2018.

Request UBA’s 2018 desk reference card with an at-a glance summary of the various limits.

IRS Announces PCORI Fee for 2017-18

The IRS announced the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) fee for 2017-18. The fee is $1.00 per covered life in the first year the fee is in effect. The fee is $2.00 per covered life in the second year. In the third through seventh years, the fee is $2.00, adjusted for medical inflation, per covered life.

For plan years that end on or after October 1, 2016, and before October 1, 2017, the indexed fee is $2.26. For plan years that end on or after October 1, 2017, and before October 1, 2018, the indexed fee is $2.39.

For more information, view UBA’s FAQ on the PCORI Fee.

IRS Provides Additional Guidance on Leave-Based Donation Programs’ Tax Treatment

Last month, the IRS provided guidance for employers who adopt leave-based donation programs to provide charitable relief for victims of Hurricane and Tropical Storm Irma. This month, the IRS issued Notice 2017-62 which extends the guidance to employers’ programs adopted for the relief of victims of Hurricane and Tropical Storm Maria.

These leave-based donation programs allow employees to forgo vacation, sick, or personal leave in exchange for cash payments that the employer will make to charitable organizations described under Internal Revenue Code Section 170(c).

The employer’s cash payments will not constitute gross income or wages of the employees if paid before January 1, 2019, to the Section 170(c) charitable organizations for the relief of victims of Hurricane or Tropical Storm Maria. Employers do not need to include these payments in Box 1, 3, or 5 of an employee’s Form W-2.

IRS Releases Information Letter on COBRA and Medicare

The IRS released Information Letter 2017-0022 that explains that a covered employee’s spouse can receive COBRA continuation coverage for up to 36 months if the employee became entitled to Medicare benefits before employment termination. In this case, the spouse’s maximum COBRA continuation period ends the later of: 36 months after the employee’s Medicare entitlement, or 18 months (or 29 months if there is a disability extension) after the employment termination.


By Danielle Capilla
Originally Published By United Benefit Advisors

We recently unveiled the latest findings from our 2017 Health Plan Survey. With data on 20,099 health plans sponsored by 11,221 employers, the UBA survey is nearly three times larger than the next two of the nation’s largest health plan benchmarking surveys combined. Here are the top trends at a glance.

Cost-shifting, plan changes, and other protections influenced rates

  • Sustained prevalence of and enrollment in lower-cost consumer-driven health plans (CDHPs) and health maintenance organization (HMO) plans kept rates lower.
  • For yet another year, “grandmothered” employers continue to have the options they need to select cheaper plans (ACA-compliant community-rated plans versus pre-ACA composite/health-rated plans) depending on the health status of their groups.
  • Increased out-of-network deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums, with greater increases for single coverage rather than family coverage, as well as prescription drug cost shifting, are among the plan design changes influencing premiums.
  • UBA Partners leveraged their bargaining power.

Overall costs continue to vary significantly by industry and geography

  • Retail, construction, and hospitality employees cost the least to cover; government employees (the historical cost leader) continue to cost among the most.
  • As in 2016, plans in the Northeast cost the most and plans in the Central U.S. cost the least.
  • Retail and construction employees contribute above average to their plans, so those employers bear even less of the already low costs in these industries, while government employers pass on the least cost to employees despite having the richest plans.

Plan design changes strained employees financially

  • Employee contributions are up, while employer contributions toward total costs remained nearly the same.
  • Although copays are holding steady, out-of-network deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums are rising.
  • Pharmacy benefits have even more tiers and coinsurance, shifting more prescription drug costs to employees.

PPOs, CDHPs have the biggest impact

  • Preferred provider organization (PPO) plans cost more than average, but still dominate the market.
  • Consumer-driven health plans (CDHPs) cost less than average and enrollment is increasing.

Wellness programs are on the rise despite increased regulations and scrutiny

Metal levels drive plan decisions

  • Most plans are at the gold or platinum metal level reflecting employers’ desire to keep coverage high. In the future, we expect this to change since it will be more difficult to meet the ACA metal level requirements and still keep rates in check.

Key trends to watch

  • Slow, but steady: increase in self-funding, particularly for small groups.
  • Cautious trend: increased CDHP prevalence/enrollment.
  • Rapidly emerging: increase of five-tier and six-tier prescription drug plans.

By Bill Olson
Originally Published By United Benefit Advisors

On October 12, 2017, the White House released an Executive Order, signed by President Trump, titled “Promoting Healthcare Choice and Competition Across the United States.”

It is important to note that the Executive Order (EO) does not implement any new laws or regulations, but instead directs various federal agencies to explore options relating to association health plans, short term limited-duration coverage (STLDI), and health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs), within the next 60 to 120 days.

The Department of Labor is ordered to explore expansion of association health plans (AHPs) by broadening the scope of ERISA to allow employers within the same line of business across the country to join together in a group health plan. The EO notes employers will not be permitted to exclude employees from an AHP or develop premiums based on health conditions. The Secretary of Labor has 60 days to consider proposing regulations or revising guidance.

Practically speaking, this type of expansion would require considerable effort with all state departments of insurance and key stakeholders across the industry. Employers should not wait to make group health plan decisions based on the EO, as it will take time for even proposed regulations to be developed.

The Department of the Treasury, Department of Labor, and Department of Health and Human Services (the agencies) are directed to consider expanding coverage options from STLDI, which are often much less expensive than Marketplace plans or employer plans. These plans are popular with individuals who are in and outside of the country or who are between jobs. The Secretaries of these agencies have 60 days to consider proposing regulations or revising guidance.

Finally, the EO directs the same three agencies to review and consider changing regulations for HRAs so employers have more flexibility when implementing them for employees. This could lead to an expanded use of HRA dollars for employees, such as for premiums. However, employers should not make any changes to existing HRAs until regulations are issued at a later date. The Secretaries have 120 days to consider proposing regulations or revising guidance.

By Danielle Capilla
Originally Published By United Benefit Advisors

A dependent care flexible spending account (DCFSA) is a pre-tax benefit account used to pay for eligible dependent care services. The IRS determines which expenses are eligible for reimbursement and these expenses are defined by Internal Revenue Code §129 and the employer’s plan. Eligible DCFSA expenses include: adult day care center, before/after school programs, child care, nanny, preschool, and summer day camp. Day nursing care, nursing home care, tuition for kindergarten and above, food expenses, and overnight camp are ineligible expenses.

Qualifying Individuals

Only qualifying individuals are eligible for dependent care expenses. A qualifying individual is an individual who spends at least eight hours in the participant’s home.

Dependent care includes care for a child who is under the age of 13 and in the participant’s custody for more than half the year. Dependent care also includes care for a spouse or relative who is physically or mentally incapable of self-care and lives in the participant’s home.

If parents are divorced, then the child is a qualified dependent of the custodial parent. A non-custodial parent cannot be reimbursed under a DCFSA even if the parent claims the child as a tax dependent.

Contributing to a DCFSA

The election is the participant’s contribution amount, which is the amount the participant puts into a DCFSA at enrollment. Participants may change the amount of money to be withheld within a 31-day window after a qualifying event, such as marriage, birth or adoption of a child, dependent death, divorce, or change in employment. Participants may enroll in or renew their election in a DCFSA during open enrollment. Participation is not automatic. Participants must re-enroll every year by the enrollment date.

The employer determines the minimum election amount and the IRS determines the maximum election amount. The IRS sets the following annual contribution limits for a DCFSA:

  • $2,500 per year for a married employee who files a separate tax return
  • $5,000 per year for a married employee who files a joint tax return
  • $5,000 per year for the head of household
  • $5,000 per year for a single employee

Even though a different maximum contribution limit may apply depending on the employer’s plan, the maximum contribution cannot exceed the following earned income limitations:

  • If you are single, the earned income limit is your salary, excluding contributions to your DCFSA.
  • If you are married, the earned income limit is the lesser of: your salary, excluding contributions to your DCFSA, or your spouse’s salary.

All DCFSA contributions are subject to IRS use-it-or-lose-it rules, which means that unused funds within the plan year will be forfeited to the employer unless the employer’s plan offers a grace period extension. Some plans include a two-and-a-half-month grace period.

Participants must report their DCFSA contributions on their federal tax return along with the name, address, and Social Security number (if applicable) of the dependent care service provider.

Reimbursement Requests

A valid DCFSA claim will either have the dependent care provider certify the service by signing the claim form or have the participant provide an itemized statement from the dependent care provider that includes the following: service dates, dependent’s name, type of service, amount billed, and the provider’s name and address along with a completed claim form.

Participants should save supporting documentation related to their DCFSA expenses and claims because the IRS may request itemized receipts to verify the eligibility of their expenses.

By Danielle Capilla
Originally Published By United Benefit Advisors

A health flexible spending account (FSA) is a pre-tax account used to pay for out-of-pocket health care costs for a participant as well as a participant’s spouse and eligible dependents. Health FSAs are employer-established benefit plans and may be offered with other employer-provided benefits as part of a cafeteria plan. Self-employed individuals are not eligible for FSAs.

Even though a health FSA may be extended to any employee, employers should design their health FSAs so that participation is offered only to employees who are eligible to participate in the employer’s major medical plan. Generally, health FSAs must qualify as excepted benefits, which means other nonexcepted group health plan coverage must be available to the health FSA’s participants for the year through their employment. If a health FSA fails to qualify as an excepted benefit, then this could result in excise taxes of $100 per participant per day or other penalties.

Contributing to an FSA

Money is set aside from the employee’s paycheck before taxes are taken out and the employee may use the money to pay for eligible health care expenses during the plan year. The employer owns the account, but the employee contributes to the account and decides which medical expenses to pay with it.

At the beginning of the plan year, a participant must designate how much to contribute so the employer can deduct an amount every pay day in accordance with the annual election. A participant may contribute with a salary reduction agreement, which is a participant election to have an amount voluntarily withheld by the employer. A participant may change or revoke an election only if there is a change in employment or family status that is specified by the plan.

Per the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), FSAs are capped at $2,600 per year per employee. However, since a plan may have a lower annual limit threshold, employees are encouraged to review their Summary Plan Description (SPD) to find out the annual limit of their plan. A participant’s spouse can put $2,600 in an FSA with the spouse’s own employer. This applies even if both spouses participate in the same health FSA plan sponsored by the same employer.

Generally, employees must use the money in an FSA within the plan year or they lose the money left in the FSA account. However, employers may offer either a grace period of up to two and a half months following the plan year to use the money in the FSA account or allow a carryover of up to $500 per year to use in the following year.

By Danielle Capilla
Originally Published By United Benefit Advisors

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