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ICHRA and minimum essential coverage MEC qualified health plans

Is Minimum Essential Coverage required for ICHRA?

Wondering if minimum essential coverage is required for ICHRA?  ICHRA requires ACA-approved coverage that meets minimum essential coverage (MEC). These are referred to as qualified health plans. Employees will want to make sure they enroll in the proper plan to participate in this new benefit. Here's what to know about MEC, Qualified Health Plans and ICHRA.


ICHRA is taking off in popularity. In fact, the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and the Treasury expect more than 11 million employees and their family members to be offered this new benefit. The Departments estimate approximately 800,000 of those individuals are currently uninsured.

Is Minimum Essential Coverage Required for ICHRA? 

To answer this question, let's start with explaining what minimum essential coverage is, why it's important, and which insurance plans are reimbursable through ICHRA.

What is Minimum Essential Coverage?

Minimum Essential Coverage (MEC) is a term that came from the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare). Prior to 2019, individuals were required to purchase a health plan that met MEC standards or pay a tax penalty. While the tax penalty has been lifted nationally (some states still have a state penalty), the law has not gone away and individuals are still required to enroll in qualified health plans.

There are several requirements for a plan to be considered MEC including coverage of the 10 essential health benefits (such as preventative and wellness services, immunizations, maternity, mental health, etc.) and limits on cost sharing (copays, deductibles, and out of pocket maximum).

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What type of insurance does ICHRA require?

The Individual Coverage HRA requires employees and their dependents to be enrolled in individual health insurance (or Medicare) for each month the employee and their family members are reimbursed through ICHRA. This can be individual health insurance offered on or off the Exchange. The plans employees choose must meet the minimum requirements as outlined in Public Health Services (PHS) Act Section 2711 and Section 2713. These two provisions require no annual or lifetime limits on the dollar amount for coverage of essential health benefits and full coverage of preventative health services to be covered with no shared cost to the insured.

Essentially, ICHRA requires individuals to purchase a MEC compliant plan called a qualified health plan.

There are two questions every individual needs to ask when securing insurance for ICHRA:

  1. Is it Individual Coverage? - Can anyone enroll in this plan or are there participation requirements (employment, union, faith requirements)?
  2. Is it MEC? Does it cover preventative health at no cost and offer no annual limits to coverage?

For those that like charts: A closer look at which plans work with ICHRA

Allowed Not Allowed
Bronze, Silver, and Gold Marketplace plans Plans consisting soley of excepted benefits (vision, dental, indemnity, etc)
Medicare (Part A+B, or Part C) Short-term
Catastrophic Plans (limited to those under age 30 or must qualify for hardship exemption) Group health plans secured through spouse’s employer
Student Health Insurance Health Care Sharing Ministries
  Association Health Plans and Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangements

Will it be difficult to purchase an ICHRA qualified plan?

The good news is, securing the right type of plan to participate in ICHRA will not be difficult. Employees offered the Individual Coverage HRA will qualify for a Special Enrollment Period  upon the initial offering. This gives employees 60 days from the date that they become eligible for the ICHRA to purchase a qualifying plan outside the normal open enrollment period ( open enrollment typically runs Nov 1-Dec 15 nationwide).

Do Sharing Ministries qualify?

Unfortunately, the new regulations very clearly state that sharing ministries do not qualify for participation in ICHRA. 

Do Preventative MEC plans qualify?

Preventative MEC  plans do not qualify for ICHRA participation because these plans do not cover 100% of preventative health care, and they typically have  annual limits on the dollar amount of coverage. This makes these plans non-compliant with the ACA and therefore do not qualify for ICHRA.

Next Steps: Finding Insurance

Employees looking for qualified ICHRA plans can shop and compare plans directly at Take Command Health. With the ability to compare plans based on preferred doctors and prescription coverage, buying a plan has never been easier. In addition, we have some great resources individuals may want to read before they get started, including “How to shop for an ICHRA compliant plan” or “ICHRA and Medicare.”

Get started with ICHRA today!



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