Regulators last week issued final rules on "excepted benefits" that bring welcome changes for employers offering employee assistance programs (EAPs) and dental or vision benefits. The final rules waive the need for self-insured dental or vision plans to have separate premiums and, in some instances, a separate opt-out. The revisions also spell out four criteria for EAPs to qualify for exception and, unlike the proposed rules, allow EAPs to be financed by another group health plan. The changes generally apply for the first plan year starting on or after January 1, 2015, but employers may rely on the revised rules now. Regulators expect to finalize proposed excepted benefit changes for limited wraparound coverage in the near future.
Looking ahead, most health plans must act by November 5 to obtain unique health plan identifiers (HPIDs) from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Small health plans have an extra year to comply, and use of the identifiers isn't required in relevant electronic transactions until November 7, 2016. The agency expects to release further guidance, but employers with self-insured plans should proceed now to ensure they have an HPID for any controlling health plan by the November 5 deadline. HHS recently revealed that it is eliminating the "authorizing official" requirement from the application process.