* Updated June 19, 2019 after the final regulations passed*
The tax-advantaged benefits of the Individual Coverage HRA (ICHRA) have been available since January 1, 2020. Our team sees this HRA option as a game changer for companies that traditionally offer group plans to their employees. It gives employers flexibility to scale benefits, control costs, and make the design work for their unique staffing situation. Here's what to know so far about ICHRA rules.
Before we dive in, let's all take a moment to go over what an ICHRA actually is. An Individual Coverage HRA is a tax-advantaged solution that allows a company of any size to reimburse employees for individual health plan premiums and qualified medical expenses.
It works like this: the employer designs their HRA and determines the amount to reimburse on a monthly basis to different classes of employees, say $200 a month for a their part-time team, $400 a month for remote employees, and a traditional group plan for the full-time team. Employees would then submit proof of an expense for reimbursement and get paid back.
This transaction is tax-free, meaning that employers don't get dinged for payroll tax on the amount and the employees don't have to recognize the reimbursements as income.
The biggest benefit of all is that with ICHRA, employers can scale their benefits based on employee classes and employees can choose the best plan that works for them.
This is the opposite of one-size-fits-all. And it's positioned to completely rewrite the way companies offer health benefits to their staff.
Where are the ICHRA rules coming from?
The final rules for the Individual Coverage HRA were announced June 13, 2019 from the U.S. Departments of Treasury, Health and Human Services, and Labor. The rules expand upon the executive order from President Trump last fall which instructed the U.S. Departments of the Treasury, Health and Human Services, and Labor to expand the usability of HRAs. This was the third step the President has used to reform healthcare policy through regulatory changes.
In this post, we will go over the ICHRA rules and build on what we know about how HRAs work through our experience being the top provider of QSEHRA administration for small businesses.
While QSEHRAs (qualified small employer health reimbursement arrangements) and individual coverage HRAs differ in more ways than one, we like to think of the ICHRA as a supercharged version of the QSEHRA that extends the tax-advantaged benefits that small business owners enjoy to a larger group of employers.
As a side note, if you are a small business and QSEHRA sounds like a good fit, check out our QSEHRA guide here or chat with one of our small business experts on our website!
The ICHRA rules to know
- Any size of company is eligible to offer an ICHRA.
- Employees must maintain Minimum Essential Coverage (MEC), aka coverage that meets PHS 2711 & 2713 with a qualified health plan.
- Employees in different classes (think geographic location, seasonal, part-time, abroad) can be offered different levels of benefits. (We think THIS IS HUGE in terms of giving more flexibility and affordability to employers).
- There are no maximum or minimum limits for monthly reimbursement rates.
- Employers can choose to offer an ICHRA any time throughout the year (not just during open enrollment!). Switching from a group plan to an ICHRA is super easy.
- Employees have a 60 day window to enroll in an individual health plan once the ICHRA becomes available, as it triggers a special enrollment period). This makes finding an individual plan that meets MEC outside of open enrollment much easier for employees.
- ICHRAs can meet the employer mandate for employers with greater than 50 full-time Applicable Large Employers (ALEs) if the offer is “affordable” and meets minimum value (MV)
- An ICHRA can be offered with a traditional group plan as long as both options aren't being offered to the same class of employees. Note: this does not preclude group dental and vision like QSEHRA.)
- If ICHRA is deemed "unaffordable," employees can choose between using Premium Tax Credits or the ICHRA. If it is deemed affordable, they cannot opt out and receive a premium tax credit. (Confused? We built an Affordability Calculator to help.
- ICHRA can be used to reimburse for premiums and qualified medical expenses, including excepted benefits like dental, vision.
About Take Command
Take Command is a recognized leader in QSEHRA administration and small business HRA tax strategy. We were at the forefront of the new ICHRA administration regulations and responded with our own comprehensive and exclusive research to the proposed regulations. In addition, we were the only HRA provider invited to Washington when the new regulations were passed. Our team is passionate about HRAs and the impact they can have on small business.
Is your company or client going to be a part of this exciting change? Chat with our team with any questions you may have about these new, tax-friendly benefits or check out our new ICHRA Guide for more information on its background, setup process, requirements, and rules.
I wrote this blog because I care about ideas (big and little) that can help fix our healthcare system. I used to work on projects for Kaiser Permanente and the Parkland Health & Hospital System so I've seen the system inside and out. It's so important that consumers keep up with industry shifts and changing health insurance regulations. I'm also Take Command Health's Content Editor and a busy mom. Learn more about me and connect with me on our about us page. Thanks!