On March 31, 2015, the Departments of Labor (DOL), Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Treasury (Departments) issued Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) announcing their intention to issue final regulations for the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) summary of benefits and coverage (SBC) and uniform glossary requirement. These regulations will finalize the proposed regulations from December 22, 2014.
The ACA requires these disclosure tools—the SBC and uniform glossary—to help consumers compare available coverage options. The requirement to provide them applies to both grandfathered and non-grandfathered plans.
Health plan issuers must provide the SBC to applicants and enrollees free of charge. The SBC is a concise document that provides simple and consistent information about health plan benefits and coverage.
The final regulations are expected to be released in the near future and will apply for plan years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2016 (including open enrollment periods in fall of 2015 for coverage beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2016).
The updated template and related documents, including sample language and instructions, for the SBC and uniform glossary will not be issued until January 2016. The updated template will then apply for plan years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2017. Until further guidance is issued, the previously updated template provided on the DOL’s website on April 23, 2014, continues to be authorized.
The March 31 FAQ guidance leaves a lot of uncertainty for employers in regard to their SBC documents. The changes included in the final regulations may require health plans to update their SBC documents before the new template is released.
The forthcoming final regulations may address this issue. In some cases, the Departments have provided temporary enforcement safe harbors when guidance is not issued sufficiently in advance of an effective date. However, at this time, no safe harbors or other relief has been provided on this issue.