Applicable Large Employers (ALE) should not overlook the Affordable Care Act's (ACA's) annual inflation-adjusted shift in cost-sharing limits for group health plan coverage, as they could face steep penalties for failing to provide affordable coverage under the ACA's shared-responsibility provisions.
On May 21, the IRS announced in Revenue Procedure 2018-34 the 2019 shared-responsibility affordability percentage. Based on the ACA's affordability standard as adjusted for inflation, health coverage will satisfy the requirement to be affordable if the lowest-cost self-only coverage option available to employees does not exceed 9.86 percent of an employee's household income, up from 9.56 percent in 2018.
For 2019 calendar-year plans using the federal poverty level (FPL) safe harbor to determine affordability, an employee's premium payment can't exceed $99.75 per month, up from $96.08 per month in 2018.
An Annual Adjustment
The affordability standard is the highest percentage of household income an employee can be required to pay for monthly plan premiums, based on the least-expensive employer-sponsored plan offered that meets the ACA's minimum essential coverage requirements.
Employers should consider the affordability standard in developing their 2019 health care plan cost-sharing strategies, since pricing at least one plan option below the threshold will avoid triggering employer-shared responsibility penalties under Section 4980H(b), which the ACA added to the tax code, said Ryan Moulder, a Los Angeles-based partner at Health Care Attorneys PC and general counsel at Accord Systems LLC, an ACA compliance software firm.
"An employer is in control as to whether the plan it is offering meets the affordability threshold," Moulder explained. "The significant increase [for 2019] compared to 2018 provides an employer that is toeing the line of the affordability threshold an opportunity to increase the price of its health insurance while continuing to provide affordable coverage."
Excerpt from SHRM article dated May 30, 2018 by Stephen Miller, CEBS