Treasury Officials Reviewing Glitch in Online ACA Coverage Calculator

October 17, 2014 in News

The Department of the Treasury likely will correct a glitch in an online federal calculator used to certify that insurance plans comply with the Affordable Care Act’s minimum coverage standards, Kaiser Health News reports (Hancock, Kaiser Health News, 10/16).

Background

For plans to meet the ACA’s minimum coverage standards, they must cover at least 60% of anticipated medical costs. To determine whether plans meet that standard, employers use the online calculator to check boxes that indicate which benefits are being offered and the employees’ shares of the plan’s cost. The calculator then concludes whether a plan covers enough of the anticipated medical costs to meet ACA standards.

However, consumer advocates last month said that a glitch in HHS’ “minimum-value” online calculator appears to be letting companies that are enrolling employees in coverage for 2015 provide less-costly health plans with substandard coverage while avoiding penalties under the ACA. Such plans lack certain benefits, such as hospitalization coverage (iHealthBeat, 9/15).

Hundreds of companies with tens of thousands of total employees are considering such plans for next year, according to brokers and benefits lawyers. Further, Edward Lenz, senior counsel for the American Staffing Association, said that some temporary-worker and recruiting companies already have implemented such plans. 

Treasury Dept. Working To Address Issue, Sources Say

According to industry lawmakers familiar with the issue, Treasury Department officials — who are tasked with enforcing the minimum-value standard — are working to address the calculator issue.

Alan Tawshunsky, senior lawyer at the Treasury, told a legal conference on Friday that the issue is under “active review,” according to Lockton Companies benefits lawyer Mark Holloway.

However, Treasury spokesperson Erin Donar declined to comment on the matter.

Further, industry experts who have discussed the issue with Treasury officials say the Obama administration has not made a final decision about whether to allow such plans. They say guidance on the issue is expected before the end of the year, KHN reports.

Meanwhile, Lynn Quincy, associate director of health reform policy for Consumers Union, said the administration’s review of the online calculator was “very welcome news” (Kaiser Health News, 10/16).

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