How Employers Should Handle MLR Rebates

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The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires health insurance issuers to spend a minimum percentage of their premium dollars on medical care and health care quality improvement. This percentage, or medical loss ratio (MLR), is 85 percent for issuers in the large group market and 80 percent for issuers in the small and individual group markets. Issuers that do not meet the applicable MLR standard must provide rebates to consumers.

The MLR requirements, which are enforced by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), became effective for issuers in 2011. Rebates must be paid by August 1 following the end of the MLR reporting year. Thus, issuers are required to pay rebates by Aug. 1, 2012, based on their 2011 MLRs.

In a report on 2011 MLR data, HHS noted that the vast majority of individuals are insured by issuers that met or exceeded the applicable MLR standard. However, for 2011, issuers in the large and small group markets are still expected to return $386 million and $321 million, respectively, in rebates.

Employers with insured group health plans may receive rebates this summer based on their issuer’s 2011 MLR data. Issuers were required to submit their 2011 MLR reports to HHS by June 1, 2012, so they may already know whether they will be issuing rebates by Aug. 1, 2012. Employers that expect to receive rebates should become familiar with the MLR rebate rules and should decide how they will administer the rebates. For assistance with rebates, please contact your Customized Benefit Solutions, Inc. representative.

MLR rebates

An issuer that does not meet its MLR standard must provide a rebate to the policyholder, which is typically the employer that sponsors the plan in the group health plan context. For current enrollees, issuers may provide rebates in the form of a lump-sum payment or a premium credit (that is, a reduction in the amount of premium owed).

Also, to avoid having to pay a rebate, an issuer may institute a “premium holiday” during an MLR reporting year if it finds that its MLR is lower than the required percentage. According to HHS, an issuer may use a premium holiday only if it is permissible under state law. Also, any issuers using premium holidays must meet certain other requirements, such as providing the holiday in a nondiscriminatory manner and refunding premium overpayments.

How an employer should handle any MLR rebate it receives from an issuer depends on the type of group health plan (an ERISA plan, a non-federal governmental group health plan or a non-ERISA, non-governmental plan) and whether the rebate is considered a plan asset.

**Health & Human Services (HHS) has released a report on the first round of rebates to be provided under health care reform’s MLR requirements.  In NJ, there will be no rebates in the individual and small group market.  There are rebates in the large group market averaging $359/family. 

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