How to Ensure Your Group Health Plan’s Summary of Benefits and Coverage is Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate

How to Ensure Your Group Health Plan’s Summary of Benefits and Coverage is Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate

Providing a Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) that is culturally and linguistically appropriate is not just a good practice—it’s a legal requirement for many group health plans. Whether your plan is self-insured or fully insured, it’s essential to understand and comply with these regulations to avoid penalties and ensure your members can access and understand their benefits. In this blog post, we’ll break down what you need to know about furnishing the SBC in languages other than English.

Understanding the Requirement

The SBC must be presented in a “culturally and linguistically appropriate” manner. This requirement is part of a broader effort to ensure that individuals who are literate only in a non-English language can understand their health coverage options. The specific conditions under which this requirement is triggered are based on U.S. Census data.

When Does the Requirement Apply?

The requirement applies if your plan’s SBC is provided to individuals in any county where at least 10% of the population is literate only in the same non-English language. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regularly updates a list of such counties and the languages that apply. As of January 1, 2025, a new list will come into effect, and it’s crucial for plan administrators to stay updated with these changes.

Compliance Steps for Group Health Plans

To comply with the “culturally and linguistically appropriate” requirement, follow these steps:

  1. Identify Applicable Counties: Check the latest HHS list to see if any counties where your plan members reside meet the 10% threshold for non-English language literacy.
  2. Provide Interpretive Services: In applicable counties, offer interpretive services in the relevant languages. This includes answering questions and providing assistance in the non-English language.
  3. Include a One-Sentence Statement: On the SBC, include a one-sentence statement in the applicable non-English languages. This statement should clearly indicate how to access language services. It must be placed on the same page as the “Your Rights to Continue Coverage” and “Your Grievance and Appeals Rights” sections.
  4. Offer Written Translations: Upon request, provide a written translation of the SBC in the applicable non-English language. The agencies have provided an SBC template that includes this one-sentence statement in all required languages for plan years beginning before 2025.
  5. Stay Updated: Keep an eye on updates from the HHS, DOL, and IRS regarding additional translations and template updates. These resources will assist in maintaining compliance with the latest requirements.
Voluntary Compliance

Even if your plan does not operate in a county meeting the 10% threshold, you may choose to include the one-sentence statement in any non-English language. If you opt for this, ensure you are prepared to provide the necessary language services.

Differentiating SBC Requirements from ERISA

It’s important to note that the requirements for SBCs differ from ERISA’s rules on language assistance for Summary Plan Descriptions (SPDs) and Summary of Material Modifications (SMMs). Ensure you are familiar with both sets of regulations to avoid confusion and non-compliance.

Meeting the requirement for a culturally and linguistically appropriate SBC is vital for compliance and member satisfaction. By following the steps outlined above, your self-insured group health plan can ensure that all members understand their coverage options, regardless of their primary language. Stay informed, be proactive, and provide the necessary language services to comply with federal regulations and support your diverse member base.

Source: Thomson Reuters

How to Ensure Your Group Health Plan’s Summary of Benefits and Coverage is Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate

Must Our Plan Offer COBRA Coverage to Spouses and Dependents Whose Coverage Was Dropped at Open Enrollment?

QUESTION: When employees drop coverage for dependents or spouses under our company’s group health plan during open enrollment, our practice has been to provide the dropped individuals with COBRA election materials. However, our new COBRA TPA says this is not necessary. Must our plan offer COBRA coverage to these individuals?

ANSWER: In most cases, you do not have to provide COBRA election notices to spouses and dependents whose coverage is dropped at open enrollment, but complexities can arise in some situations. COBRA requires a plan to offer continuation coverage to qualified beneficiaries only if coverage is lost due to certain triggering events such as termination or reduction of hours of the covered employee’s employment, divorce or legal separation, death of the covered employee, or a dependent child’s ceasing to be a dependent under the plan. (When a triggering event results in a loss of coverage, it is called a COBRA “qualifying event.”) But an employee might drop a spouse or dependent from coverage for other reasons—for example, because the spouse or dependent has enrolled in another employer’s health plan. Only COBRA qualifying events give rise to an obligation to provide a COBRA election notice.

Caution is needed because sometimes, dependents or spouses are dropped from coverage during open enrollment due to a COBRA triggering event. For example, dependents may be dropped because they have ceased to be dependents under the plan’s terms, or a spouse may be dropped because of a divorce or legal separation. If these COBRA triggering events result in a loss of coverage, they may also be COBRA qualifying events that give rise to an obligation to offer COBRA coverage. A plan is generally not required to provide a COBRA election notice unless the plan administrator is notified of a divorce (or legal separation) or a child’s ceasing to be a dependent within 60 days after the event occurs—provided that the notice requirement is communicated through the plan’s SPD and COBRA initial notice. Nevertheless, a plan administrator that becomes aware that one of these qualifying events (such as a divorce) has occurred may wish to act on that information and provide a COBRA election notice immediately, even without formal notice. Sending the election notice will start the 60-day COBRA election period running at the earliest possible time. And a court could hold a plan administrator responsible for providing an election notice to a qualified beneficiary if the plan administrator knew or should have known that a qualifying event occurred, regardless of whether the administrator received the required notice.

An employee might also drop a spouse or dependent from coverage during open enrollment because he or she “anticipates” a triggering event such as a divorce. When coverage has been eliminated or reduced in anticipation of a divorce, COBRA must be offered to the spouse beginning with the date of the actual divorce, even though the spouse was not covered immediately before the divorce and did not lose coverage because of the divorce. Because the anticipation rule can create administrative and legal complexities, plan administrators should consult their legal counsel and insurers when applying it to particular situations. Although not required by COBRA, some plan administrators send a letter to spouses or dependents who have been dropped during open enrollment, advising them that they no longer have coverage and reminding them that, to protect their COBRA rights, they must notify the plan administrator if they lost coverage due to divorce, legal separation, or a dependent child’s loss of eligibility, as applicable.

Source: Thomson Reuters

How to Ensure Your Group Health Plan’s Summary of Benefits and Coverage is Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate

Can a Health Plan Charge an Additional Premium for Older Children?

QUESTION: Our company’s major medical plan offers a choice of self-only or family coverage. Dependent coverage is provided under the family coverage option for participants’ children who have not yet reached age 26. May our plan impose an additional premium surcharge for children who are older than age 18?

ANSWER: A premium surcharge for coverage of children over age 18 is not permitted because your plan would be impermissibly varying the terms for dependent coverage of children based on age. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires group health plans that provide dependent coverage of children to make such coverage available for a child until age 26. In addition, the terms and conditions under which dependent coverage is provided for children cannot vary based on age, except for children who are age 26 or older. This rule is known as the “uniformity requirement.”

Although your plan may not impose a surcharge for these children, revising or repricing the plan’s coverage tiers without making the structure age-based may allow your company to accomplish the same financial goals. For example, a plan design in which the cost of coverage increases for tiers with more covered individuals would not violate the ACA’s age 26 mandate, so long as the increase applies without regard to the age of any child. Although you did not specify whether your plan is grandfathered, it is important to note that changing coverage tiers can adversely affect a plan’s status as a grandfathered plan.

Source: Thomson Reuters

How to Ensure Your Group Health Plan’s Summary of Benefits and Coverage is Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate

INSURICA Names NueSynergy as Preferred Partner

LEAWOOD, Kansas – NueSynergy, Inc., one of the nation’s fastest growing employee benefits and billing administrators in the country, is pleased to announce its preferred partnership with INSURICA, one of the largest privately-held independent agencies in the United States.

“NueSynergy continues to drive the consumer-directed health care industry forward with an employer-centric focus. As INSURICA looks to its future, it’s important for us to work with a preferred partner who shares our values and commitment to our existing and prospective clients,” said Ann Moses, Vice President and Branch Leader of INSURICA.

NueSynergy continues to achieve exceptional business results with innovative products like its COBRAcare+ administration. With COBRAcare+, NueSynergy works with INSURICA to take the extra step to check available health coverage and compare it to the employer’s COBRA benefits and premium cost. If the COBRA-eligible individual selects a coverage option other than COBRA, one of INSURICA’s licensed agents will help get them set up – and the employer no longer has an obligation to fulfill. It’s a true win-win for the individual and the employer.

“NueSynergy has concentrated on expanding our overall infrastructure as we continue to expand our nationwide presence,” said Josh Collins, president of NueSynergy. “As we continue to focus on proactive benefits solutions for employer clients, we look to trusted partners like INSURICA to build new client relationships.”

About NueSynergy

NueSynergy is known for industry-leading service, innovative technology, and excellence in providing full-service administration of consumer-driven and traditional account-based plans to employers of all sizes and sectors. Headquartered in Leawood, Kansas, NueSynergy also has locations in Arizona, Florida, Idaho, North Carolina, Virginia, Washington, and Rzeszów, Poland.

NueSynergy offers a fully integrated suite of administration services, which include Health Savings Account (HSA), Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA), Flexible Spending Account (FSA), Lifestyle Savings Account (LSA), and COBRAcare+ administration as well as SpouseSaver Incentive Account, Combined Billing, Direct Billing, and Specialty Solutions. For more information, visit www.NueSynergy.com.

About INSURICA

Placing over $1 billion in annual premiums for their clients, INSURICA is among the 50 largest insurance brokers in the United States and is currently the 42nd largest privately-held independent agency in the country.

Headquartered in Oklahoma City, INSURICA employs more than 700 colleagues in 35+ offices located throughout Oklahoma, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Mississippi, and Texas. INSURICA is constantly looking to expand their network with partners who bring additional value and expertise to the enterprise and our clients. For more information, visit www.INSURICA.com.

How to Ensure Your Group Health Plan’s Summary of Benefits and Coverage is Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate

EBenefitsHub Announces NueSynergy as Exclusive National Core Partner

ORLANDO, Florida – EBenefitsHub is pleased to announce its addition of NueSynergy as an Exclusive National Core Partner. “We are excited to include the fully integrated suite of administration services assembled by Josh Collins, President, and the rest of the NueSynergy team over the past 27 years,” said EBenefitsHub Founder and CEO, Nick Gregory, ChWE. “NueSynergy has earned respect for its industry-leading service, innovative technology, and excellence in providing full-service administration of consumer-driven and traditional account-based plans among other solutions.”:

Flexible Spending Accounts, Health Reimbursement Arrangements, Health Savings Accounts, Lifestyle Spending Accounts, SpouseSaver Incentive Accounts, COBRAcare+ Administration, Premium Only Plans, Combined Billing, Direct Billing, and Private Label Solutions.

“NueSynergy continues to expand its national presence by offering a wide variety of forward-thinking, employer-centric products and services,” said Josh Collins, president of NueSynergy. “It’s important for us to work alongside an elite and diverse group of reputable companies to build solutions and long-term relationships for our mutual clients.”

With this announcement, NueSynergy joins a collection of exclusive, best-of-breed CorePartner organizations to provide services and products to BenefitsPros across the country. The result is the fusion of advanced knowledge, experience, services, technology, and products to create a synchronized hub for BenefitsPros and their business clients.

“We have engineered a modernized suite of snap-on digital solutions coupled with an arsenal of resources necessary for employee benefits providers to prevail within today’s competitively complex employee benefits landscape,” said Nick Gregory. “BenefitsPros can design and build their digital benefits hub . . . as they wish.

“With the help of NueSynergy and our other CorePartners, BenefitsPros can embrace the digital revolution, bridging the gaps while cutting away the bad plumbing of detached digital and manual processes . . . their way. They can neutralize competitors, expand client offerings, harvest more clients, and future-proof success. In a sea of sameness, BenefitsPros can brand, position, and differentiate to create an unfair advantage.”

About NueSynergy

NueSynergy, Inc., a privately held company, is one of the nation’s fastest growing employee benefits and billing administrators in the country. Headquartered in Leawood, Kansas, NueSynergy also has locations in Arizona, Florida, Idaho, North Carolina, Virginia, Washington, and Rzeszów, Poland.

NueSynergy offers a fully integrated suite of administration services, which include Health Savings Account (HSA), Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA), Flexible Spending Account (FSA), Lifestyle Savings Account (LSA), and COBRAcare+ administration as well as SpouseSaver Incentive Account, Combined Billing, Direct Billing, and Specialty Solutions. For more information, visit www.NueSynergy.com.

About EBenefitsHub

EBenefitsHub has engineered a modernized suite of snap-on digital solutions synchronized within its holistic EBHub Dashboard and “white label” All-In-One MobileFirst App. The EBHub “ecosystem” is coupled with an arsenal of resources necessary for benefits professionals to prevail within today’s competitively complex benefits landscape. BenefitsPros can design/build their digital benefits hubs . . . on their terms. With the help of EBHub CorePartners, BenefitsPros can embrace the digital revolution; bridging the gaps while cutting away the bad plumbing of detached digital and manual processes.

They can neutralize competitors, expand client offerings, harvest more clients and future-proof success. In a sea of sameness, BenefitsPros can brand, position and differentiate to create an unfair advantage. The result is seamlessly harmonized employee benefits, engagement and communications, merged into a powerfully holistic platform for BenefitsPros and their clients:

Design • Quote • Present • Enroll • Engage • Communicate • Enhance Renew • Manage

Learn more: MyEBenefitshub.com Grow@MyEBenefitshub.com 407-878-3520

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