Employment LawScene Alert: IRS Expands List of HSA-Compatible Preventive Care Services

The IRS recently issued guidance expanding the types of preventive care services that can be provided by a high-deductible health plan (HDHP), before the deductible is met, without eliminating a covered individual’s eligibility to participate in a Health Savings Account (HSA). The new guidance was published on July 17, 2019 and took legal effect on that same day.

Employers who sponsor HDHPs should now consider whether any plan documentation or communication changes are required to implement the expanded preventive care coverage rules. Alternately, employers who have not previously adopted a HDHP should assess whether the new rules may now make the HDHP/HSA model a more attractive way to control health care costs.

An HSA is a tax-favored account that may receive contributions from an employee, an employer, or both. HSAs are subject to various rules that govern the individual account holder’s eligibility to make and receive contributions and whether or not withdrawals are taxable.

To be eligible for HSA contributions, an individual must be covered under a HDHP and may generally not have any health coverage other than HDHP coverage. Certain preventive care services, however, are not considered to constitute health coverage so as to disqualify an individual from HSA eligibility.

Previously, preventive care (within the meaning of the HSA and HDHP rules) has not included any service or benefit intended to treat an existing illness, injury, or condition.

The IRS is aware, however, that cost barriers for care have resulted in the failure by some individuals who are diagnosed with certain chronic health conditions to seek or to use effective and necessary care that would prevent exacerbation of such conditions. Accordingly, and in consultation with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the IRS determined that certain medical care services received and items purchased, including prescription drugs, should now be classified as preventive care for someone with the corresponding chronic condition.

Newly Established HSA-Compatible Preventive Care
To address the stated concerns, the expanded list of HSA-Compatible preventive care expenses includes fourteen cost-effective items and services that are likely to prevent the worsening of eleven specified chronic conditions, as follows:

  Preventive Care for Specified Conditions   For Individuals Diagnosed with
Angiotensin Converting Enzyme (ACE) inhibitors Congestive heart failure, diabetes, or coronary artery disease
Anti-resorptive therapy Osteoporosis or osteopenia
Blood pressure monitor Congestive heart failure or coronary artery disease
Inhaled corticosteroids Asthma
Insulin and other glucose-lowering agents Diabetes
Retinopathy screening Diabetes
Peak flow meter Asthma
Glucometer Diabetes
Hemoglobin A1c testing Diabetes
International Normalized Ratio (INR) testing Liver disease or bleeding disorders
Low-density Lipoprotein (LDL) testing Heart disease
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) Depression
Statins Heart disease and diabetes

The IRS and HHS will together review the list approximately every five to ten years to determine whether any items or services should be removed or added.

Changes Arose from Executive Order and Policy Advocacy
The immediate impetus of the change is Section 6 of Executive Order 13877, “Improving Price and Quality Transparently in American Healthcare to Put Patients First,” which was signed by President Trump on June 24, 2019, and which mandated the issuance of guidance permitting HSAs to cover low-cost preventive care to help “maintain health status for individuals with chronic conditions.”

The change also reflects the efforts of various health-policy advisors and advocates, who have long called for allowing first-dollar HDHP coverage for targeted, evidence-based, preventive services that prevent chronic disease progression and related complications.

Key HDHP Sponsor Issues and Next Steps

  • In preparation for the 2020 open enrollment season, employer-sponsors of HDHPs should work to educate employees and dependents to assist them in understanding and benefitting from the new pre-deductible preventive care services.
  • Sponsors of HDHPs should review whether or not existing plan documentation should be amended to encompass the expanded categories of covered care (or whether the current definitions remain legally sufficient).
  • Because the out-of-pocket costs for some types of chronic care will now shift to the employer, sponsors of HDHPs should analyze whether the current deductible and premium levels are sufficient to meet the increased benefit expenses, or whether adjustments are warranted.
  • Employers who offer both HDHPs/HSAs and on-site health clinics may provide only preventive care services in the on-site clinic in order to avoid jeopardizing employee HSA eligibility. Affected employers may now reconsider and expand the types of pre-deductible services to be provided to employees in the on-site clinic.
  • Increased coverage of chronic condition expenses may increase the attractiveness of HDHP coverage to participants who are managing chronic conditions. The new rules may provide an opportunity to either increase future employee participation in, or to newly adopt, HDHP/HSA coverage.

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