Bill Would Eliminate Medicare Advocacy Services

The Senate Appropriations Committee recently approved the FY17 Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations bill, which would eliminate funding for the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). It’s called the Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP) in California. It is the only program that provides free, unbiased, one-on-one Medicare coverage and benefit counseling for beneficiaries, family members, and caregivers. According to California Health Advocates, “This dangerous bill aims to eliminate this important, effective program that helps millions of beneficiaries nationwide better understand and navigate the increasingly complex Medicare program.”

The Cadillac Tax Is Causing Employers to Eliminate HSA Contributions

Many employers with plan costs close to the Cadillac Tax threshold are eliminating payroll contributions to HSAs to avoid incurring excise tax liability, even though many HSA-qualified plans are likely to avoid the tax for years, according to a study by The American Bankers Assn through its Health Savings Accounts Council and HSA Consulting Services.

In a recent letter to the IRS, the HSA Council said that employee contributions should be excluded from the excise tax calculation. HSA plans have proven effective in increasing health and wellness behaviors while decreasing healthcare costs and enabling Americans to save for healthcare and retirement expenses, according to the Council.

Kevin McKechnie, executive director of ABA’s HSA Council said that many HSA-qualified plans are expected to remain under the initial Cadillac Tax threshold, but employers in expensive states or with expensive plans may incur tax liability in 2018. The tax is calculated monthly. Employers who contribute large amounts in one month to help employees seed accounts may need to spread contributions over a plan year in order to avoid the tax.

There is a very large premium variance among states. HSA plans in Connecticut are likely to be affected right away while Iowa plans appear to be safe for years to come.

Todd Berkley, president of HSA Consulting Services, the author of the study said, “We initially set out to prove that HSA plans would steer clear of the tax, but are dismayed to find some plans will be hit right away if payroll contributions are counted. While many HSA plans will likely be a safe haven for now, like the AMT, this tax will eventually affect every plan in America, including HSA plans.”

Bill Would Eliminate Health Plans That Offer Skinny Policies


Assembly member Roger Hernández (D –West Covina) introduced Assembly Bill 248, which require large employers to offer only comprehensive health insurance to their employees. AB 248 would prohibit health plans or insurers from offering large employers coverage unless it is 60% minimum value or higher. Under federal and state law this is already required of small employers, but not for large employers. This bill closes that loophole by ensuring that a limited benefit health plan can only be sold as supplemental comprehensive insurance coverage.

“Large employers with mostly low-wage workers have a financial incentive to offer limited health coverage that will leave workers vulnerable when they get sick. We need to end this loophole that rewards bad behavior. If our small business community is required to provide comprehensive health insurance to its employees, large employers have no excuse to not offer the same,” stated Hernández. AB 248 is sponsored by Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition

Legislation to Eliminate the Health Insurance Tax is Reintroduced

U.S. Senators John Barrasso (R-WY) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) reintroduced the Jobs and Premium Protection Act (S.603), which would eliminate the health insurance tax included in the president’s health care law.  Senator Barrasso said, “Over the last three years, Americans and small businesses have watched their health premiums increase under the president’s health care law. Now, they’re set to get hit again unless Congress repeals the costly health insurance tax. Small businesses and their employees are the ones who are going to end up paying this unfair tax.”

Senator Hatch said, “American families and job creators can’t afford the cost or consequences of this ObamaCare health insurance tax. Higher insurance costs, fewer jobs and smaller paychecks is not what president Obama promised when he signed the largest expansion of government into law nearly three years ago, but that’s exactly what’s already happening in no small part because of this tax, said. Raising taxes on health insurance can only ever lead to higher health care costs, because the price of the tax will be passed onto consumers. In this economy and with families and businesses struggling to succeed, it’s time we repeal this egregious tax once and for all.” Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Dan Coats (R-IN), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Mike Johanns (R-NE) are original cosponsors of the Jobs and Premium Protection Act.

Last Updated 08/04/2020

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