August 15, 2014 California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law legislation SB 1034 to better align California’s health coverage waiting period requirements with federal law. The intent of the bill is to resolve confusion between California and Federal law and to better conform to the waiting period provisions of the Affordable Care Act. While the ACA had established a 90-day waiting period for employers, California originally established a 60-day waiting period in 2014.
Therefore, as new plans begin or plans renew on or after January 1, 2015, employers will have the following options for waiting periods (depending on the medical carrier):
- First of the month following date of hire,
- First of the month following 30 days, or
- First of the month following 60 days.
Please check with your medical carrier for details or we can assist you to ensure you have the best option for your group. If your group would like to change your waiting period for first of the month following 60 days, as your plan’s current waiting period was changed upon your renewal in 2014 to a lesser waiting period, this MAY be an option in 2015 (depending on carrier), or you can change upon your next renewal.
Federal action on waiting periods-in this case orientation periods – is also occurring at the federal level. In a final rule released in June 25, 2014 the Internal Revenue Service, the Employee Benefits Security Administration, and the Health and Human Services Department are authorizing an employer (who is offering ACA defined credible coverage) to have a “bona fide orientation period that occurs before the 90 waiting period begins. That means an employer that offers health coverage to employees could have an additional month of time before adding a new hire onto their health policy if there is a bona fide reason for an orientation period.
Under the final regulations, a group health plan and a health insurance issuer offering group health insurance coverage may not apply any waiting period that exceeds 90 days. The regulations define “waiting period” as the period that must pass before coverage for an employee or dependent who is otherwise eligible to enroll under the terms of a group health plan can become effective. Being otherwise eligible to enroll in a plan means having met the plan’s substantive eligibility conditions (such as, for example, being in an eligible job classification, achieving job-related licensure requirements specified in the plan’s terms, or satisfying a reasonable and bona fide employment-based orientation period.
The proposed regulations provided that one month would be the maximum allowed length of any reasonable and bona fide employment-based orientation period. During an orientation period, the regulators envisioned that an employer and employee could evaluate whether the employment situation was satisfactory for each party, and standard orientation and training processes would begin. Under the proposed regulations, if a group health plan conditions eligibility on an employee’s having completed a reasonable and bona fide employment-based orientation period, the eligibility condition would not be considered to be designed to avoid compliance with the 90-day waiting period limitation if the orientation period did not exceed one month and the maximum 90-day waiting period would begin on the first day after the orientation period.
The federal orientation period rule becomes effective on all group policies issued or renewed after January 1, 2015.
Reference: CAHU News Agents Can Use (August 20, 2014)
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