As previously noted, the individual mandate under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (also known as the ACA, or more informally as Obamacare) still applies in 2018. Finding affordable coverage to avoid the penalty is essential.
One option available to individuals and families is joining a “health care sharing ministry” (HCSM) under Section 5000A of the Tax Code. If an individual is covered by an HCSM in any given month in 2018, then the individual will not be subject to the tax penalty for that month.
In Executive Order 13813, President Donald Trump made it the official policy of the executive branch to find ways to expand the use of Association Health Plans (AHPs) as a means of providing quality, affordable coverage across state lines.
On January 4, 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a proposed rule designed to do just that. Based on 2015 figures, the proposed rule has the potential to impact the health coverage of about 44 million people, whether by expanding coverage to the uninsured, by making more affordable coverage available to sole proprietors and small employers, or by cutting back some individuals’ benefits.
The federal agencies charged with administering the Affordable Care Act released interim final regulations Oct. 6, 2017, that extended the exemption from providing contraceptive coverage to more employers and individuals effective immediately. Days later, the government settled dozens of lawsuits filed by organizations challenging the so-called “contraceptive mandate.” But several new cases challenging the expanded exemption were filed.
Thanks to the 21st Century Cures Act, beginning Jan. 1, 2017, some employers can now offer employees a new type of health reimbursement arrangement, called a Qualified Small Employer HRA. Primarily governed by 26 U.S.C. § 9831(d), these HRAs are designed to help subsidize employees’ purchase of health coverage on the exchange, although they can also be used to help pay for other medical expenses.
The following questions and answers explain how these new HRAs work.