NAHU submitted a list of suggestions to the Trump Administration on Tuesday, utilizing member input to convey what the various federal agencies should do during this time. With the assistance of the Compliance Corner Committee, we compiled a list of suggested guidance and regulation for the Department of Labor, IRS, HHS and CMS that we believe will allow more Americans to maintain or obtain health insurance coverage both in the group and individual market, as well as allow for employers to continue to stay in business and maintain employment.|
In our suggestions to the DOL, we emphasized some of the major issues that NAHU has observed, including the problem of definitions. There are currently varying definitions between employers, carriers and regulations for “furlough,” “leave of absence,” “layoff,” “quarantine,” “self-isolation,” “shelter in place” and others, so we requested that further guidance be issued specifying the definitions of these terms. We also asked for clarification on how to treat variable-hour employees in calculating the total number of employees, given current circumstances. As far as filings are concerned, we requested that Form 5500 filings be extended for plan years ending August 31, 2019, since employers not set up to work from home are facing challenges to access information from the client and having them sign electronically. We requested an automatic extension for COBRA administrative letters and QMCSO letters distributed on or after March 1, 2020. We also asked for greater flexibility for the 90-day notice period for ICHRAs.
In our suggestions to the IRS, we recommended that it allow for an additional 60 to 90 days for a response to any 226J letters distributed on or after March 1, 2020. In regards to Section 125, we recommended that the IRS create a safe harbor for the nondiscrimination rules to not “count” the time between March 2020 and July 2020 (or until 30-60 days following national, state or local emergencies, or until the end of the year to align with FMLA) and that the IRS suspend change-of-status rules for those businesses impacted by COVID-19 until the end of the national, state or local emergencies. Additionally, we requested that both the IRS and HHS provide guidance for individuals on how to report unexpected income and provide a safe harbor for the following tax year.
In our recommendations to HHS and CMS, we made several suggestions about enrollment periods. Instead of 30 days response time for open enrollment, NAHU suggested that they allow extensions from 60 to 90 days along with guidance that carriers may accept printouts from electronic enrollment systems, versus their own forms as those may not be possible to obtain in a timely manner. We also asked for a onetime SEP to allow individuals on COBRA to enroll in the marketplace and for the Medicare Advantage OEP to be extended until June 30. As far as affordability concerns go, we recommended that HHS allow employers to defer payment of group premiums and individuals to defer payment of their own premiums for 60 to 90 days (or instruct carriers not to terminate coverage until an employer has a lapsed payment beyond 90 days).
As far as Medicare beneficiaries specifically are concerned, we suggested that carriers be allowed to accept temporary attestations while we are in this public health crisis in light of the fact that many agents have not been able to meet seniors face to face since March 7. In addition, we noted that Medicare Part B enrollment has been complicated by COVID-19 and subsequent closures of SSA offices, and uniform guidance for flexibility to transmit forms is necessary. Otherwise, seniors may be left waiting months for the next enrollment.