Medical Loss Ratio Checks Recently Issued to Fully Insured Plans (Part 1)

From ChamberChoice

Note: This is Part 1 of an article on medical loss ratios (MLR). Part 2 will be posted next week.

As a reminder, insurance carriers are required to satisfy certain medical loss ratio (“MLR”) thresholds. This generally means that for every dollar of premium a carrier collects with respect to a major medical plan, it should spend 85 cents in the large group market (80 cents in the small group market) on medical care and activities to improve health care quality. If these thresholds are not satisfied, rebates are available to employers in the form of a premium credit or check.

If a rebate is available, carriers were required to distribute MLR checks to employers by September 30, 2019.

Importantly, employers must distribute any amounts attributed to employee contributions to employees and handle the tax consequences (if any).

This does not apply to self-funded plans.

The rules around rebates are complex and require careful review with ERISA counsel. Among other things, an employer receiving a rebate as a policy holder will need to determine:

• who receives a rebate (e.g., current participants v. former participants);
• the form of the rebate (e.g., premium reduction v. cash distribution);
• the tax impacts of any such rebate (on both the employer and participants receiving the rebate); and
• what, if any, communication to provide participants regarding the rebate.

The following questions and answers summarize information regarding what employer action may be necessary.

What Will the Rebate Amount Be?
Carriers determine MLR on a state basis by market segment (individual, small group, or large group). Carriers do not disaggregate by type of plan within these markets (e.g., PPO v. HMO v. HDHP) or by policyholder so the carrier will have to let you know the amount.

A carrier is not required to provide a rebate to an enrollee if the total rebate owed is less than $20 per subscriber ($5.00 when a carrier pays the rebate directly to each subscriber). This rule regarding de minimis amounts only applies to the carrier, not to employers refunding amounts to participants.

Will there be any Communication?

For each MLR reporting year, at the time any rebate of premium is provided, a carrier must provide the policyholder and each current enrollee who was also enrolled in the MLR reporting year in a form prescribed by HHS.

Employers do not have to notify employees, but they may want to address the notices being distributed by the carriers. Language similar to the following provides a starting point for such a notice:

Employees should have received a notice of rebate from [carrier]. In short, [Employer] received a rebate check in the amount of $_____. Amounts attributable to participant contributions will be used to [reduce premium amounts] for [currently enrolled employees] in accordance with legal requirements. These amounts will be reflected in the [October ___] paychecks.

What will the Form of Rebate to the Employer Be?
Carriers may issue rebates in the form of either a premium credit (i.e., reduction in a premium owed), a lump-sum payment, a lump-sum reimbursement to the account used to pay the premium if an enrollee paid the premium using a credit card or direct debit, or a “premium holiday,” if this is permissible under state law.

When will Rebates be Issued?
Rebates must be paid by September 30 each year. A carrier that fails to timely pay any rebate must additionally pay the enrollee interest at the current Federal Reserve Board lending rate or 10% annually, whichever is higher, on the total amount of the rebate, accruing from the date payment was due.

Do Employers Have to Give Some or All of the Rebate to Participants?
Yes, unless they paid 100% for all tiers of coverage.

Carriers will generally send rebate checks to employers and employers must mete out any amounts attributed to employee contributions to employees and handle the tax consequences. There is no one formula for employers to use, but guidance has been provided to aid employers.

ERISA-covered group health plans
To the extent that rebates are attributable to participant contributions, they constitute plan assets. Plan assets must be handled in accordance with the fiduciary responsibility provisions of Title I of ERISA.

If the employer is the policyholder, determining the plan’s portion, if any, may depend on provisions in the plan or the policy or on the manner in which the plan sponsor and the plan participants have shared in the cost of the policy. If the plan or its trust is the policyholder, in the absence of  specific plan or policy language to the contrary, the entire rebate would constitute plan assets, and the policyholder would be required to comply with ERISA’s fiduciary provisions in the handling of rebates that it receives.

The HHS regulations and related DOL guidance for ERISA plans leave to the policyholder the decision as to how to use the portion of a rebate that constitutes plan assets, subject to ERISA’s general standards of fiduciary conduct. The DOL notes that, in choosing an allocation method, “the plan fiduciary may properly weigh the costs to the plan and the ultimate plan benefit as well as the competing interests of participants or classes of participants provided such method is reasonable, fair and objective.” An allocation does not necessarily have to exactly reflect the premium activity of policy subscribers. A plan fiduciary may instead weigh the costs to the plan and the competing interests of participants or classes of participants when fashioning an allocation method, provided the method ultimately proves reasonable, fair, and objective. If the fiduciary finds that the cost of passing through the rebate to former participants would exhaust most of those rebates, the proceeds can likely be allocated to current participants.

Guidance does not address how to handle an MLR rebate where the amount is inconsequential (e.g., a dollar per participant). Taking a cue from DOL Field Assistance Bulletin No. 2006-01, a fiduciary may be able to conclude, after analyzing the relative costs, that no allocation is necessary, when the administrative costs of making correction far exceed the amount of the allocation.

If a plan provides benefits under multiple policies, the fiduciary is instructed to allocate or apply the plan’s portion of a rebate for the benefit of participants and beneficiaries who are covered by the policy to which the rebate relates provided doing so would be prudent and solely in the interests of the plan according to the above analysis. But, according to the DOL, “the use of a rebate generated by one plan to benefit the participants of another plan would be a breach of the duty of loyalty to a plan’s participants.” 

Plans that are neither covered by ERISA nor are governmental plans (e.g., church plans)
With respect to policyholders that have a group health plan but not a governmental plan or a plan subject to ERISA, carriers must obtain written assurance from the policyholder that rebates will be used for the benefit of current subscribers or otherwise must pay the rebates directly to subscribers. 

The final rule issued on February 27, 2015 provides that subscribers of non-federal governmental or other group health plans not subject to ERISA must receive the benefit of MLR rebates within three (3) months of receipt of the rebate by their group policyholder, just as subscribers of group health plans subject to ERISA do.

Reminder – Grants Available to Help Farmers and Small Businesses Save Money and Reduce Pollution


Grant funding for energy efficiency and pollution prevention projects for small business owners and farmers is still available from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) through the Small Business Advantage Grant program.

“This grant program was created with small businesses and farmers in mind. There are tremendous monetary savings available to Pennsylvania’s small business entrepreneurs by installing energy-efficient equipment, such as LED lighting, and Energy Star rated HVAC and boilers,” said Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “Pennsylvania farmers can also benefit from these grants by receiving support for undertaking projects to help them divert sediment and nutrient runoff from our waterways.”

Pennsylvania farmers and other small business owners with 100 or fewer full-time employees are eligible for the grants. Projects must save the business a minimum of $500 and 25 percent annually in energy consumption, or pollution-related expenses. Natural resource protection projects are exempt from the minimums; however, the projects must be able to quantify sediment and nutrient reductions into nearby waterways.

“Clean water and healthy soil are the keys to sustaining our farms and feeding our communities,” Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said. “These grants are an investment in our future, and I encourage Pennsylvania farmers to take advantage of this opportunity.”

Businesses can apply for 50 percent matching funds for equipment or materials, up to $7,000, when adopting energy-efficient or pollution prevention equipment or processes. Applications are considered on a first-come, first-served basis, and will be accepted until fiscal year 2019-20 funds are exhausted, or April 12, 2020, whichever occurs first.

The complete grant application package, which includes step-by-step instructions for completing the online application as well as all related forms, is available by visiting the DEP Small Business Ombudsman’s Office site.

To contact the Small Business Ombudsman’s Office, call 717-772-5160 or email.

PA Chamber’s 29th Economic Survey: While Employers Feel Confident About the Economy, Concerns Over Skills Gap Remain

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

For the past 29 years, the PA Chamber has commissioned a statewide survey of employers to gage their thoughts on the economy, the direction the state is headed and to also learn more about what issues are impacting them the most. The survey helps us to keep our pulse on the concerns and needs of the state’s broad-based business community so that we can better advocate on their behalf in the halls of the state Capitol. This year’s Economic Survey – which was conducted in August 2019 by Susquehanna Polling and Research and was completed in partnership with The Initiative for Family Business and Entrepreneurship at Saint Joseph’s University – found that employers are feeling confident and positive about the state of the economy, with many expecting to increase sales and grow their business over the coming months. Yet, despite this positive news, there remains a very real concern among the Commonwealth’s job creators with the status of the state’s workforce; with employers overwhelming stating that the jobs skills gap was the biggest challenge facing their business.

According to the survey of 650 employers, job creators listed difficulties finding skilled and qualified employees to fill open positions as the biggest problems facing their companies. This represents the second year in a row that workforce has been employers “top of mind” issue. Only a combined 43 percent rated the quality of the state’s workforce as either “excellent” or “good” – the second lowest ranking on record – with 20 percent rating it as “poor,” – a new high in this category.

It was based on the feedback from its members that the PA Chamber launched its aggressive workforce initiative in 2016 – Start the Conversation Here – designed to help address the skills gap that continues to plague businesses throughout the state. As I’ve previously noted in this column, the workforce issue is one that stretches across all industry sectors in every region of the state. It’s one that many of our local chamber partners have said they are dealing with in their communities. And it’s one that we’re proud to be working with a broad coalition of organizations, local chambers and lawmakers to address.

Employers also once again cited concerns with the state’s tax structure. Nearly 55 percent of respondents listed lowering business taxes as one of the top issues they want legislators to focus on in Harrisburg. That’s why the PA Chamber is urging state elected officials to follow the lead of the federal government and make much needed changes on the state level. To that end, we are advocating for a reduction in the state’s Corporate Net Income Tax – which remains one of the highest in the nation – as well as for reforms to that would streamline and simplify the state’s Tax Code and regulatory environment. 

In other news, October has been designated as “Local Chamber of Commerce Month” by Gov. Tom Wolf. The governor’s greeting highlights the important role local chambers play in communities throughout the state. Our local chamber partners have been invaluable in our collective efforts to promote a pro-growth agenda in the state Capitol. We look forward to building on these strong relationships to continue to advocate for policies that will improve our business climate and promote economic growth!

Member News – October 23, 2019


  • There will be a fun, Halloween-themed, family-friendly fundraising event this Saturday, Oct. 26, at Hawkins Chevrolet, located at 1856 Montour Blvd. (Rt. 11), Danville, to benefit the Montour Area Recreation Commission, which manages the Montour Preserve. This event is being hosted by the Danville Business Alliance and several other Danville-based organizations. It will feature an obstacle course, pumpkin toss, trunk or treat and much more. All proceeds raised from the event will benefit MARC, which currently does not have enough funding to sustain operations beyond next fall. For additional information, visit the Facebook event page, and view the below video. 

  • Hand in Hand Family Resource Center will present a special Halloween edition of C.A.M.P.S. (Construction, Art, Music, Play, Sensory), called Tricks & Treats this Sunday, Oct. 27, from 2-5 p.m. at Arnold’s Golf Course in Mifflinville. The event will begin with a Halloween golf cart parade (with golf card decorated by local families), and then will move onto the C.A.M.P.S. program, which will include: building haunted houses from recycled materials, skeleton handprints, apple, pumpkin and potato stamping, blowing ghost paintings, making musical instruments, eyeball putting, pumpkin bowling, and more. This free event (which includes a suggested but not mandatory donation to benefit Hand in Hand), is for all ages and every ability. For more information, visit the Facebook event


  • LIFE Geisinger will hold its annual Open House on Tuesday, Nov. 12, from 3-6 p.m., at its location at 1100 Spruce St., Kulpmont. There will be light refreshments, door prizes and tours of the facility. LIFE Geisinger is a unique and innovative program for older adults designed to give them the support they need and continue living at home, and attendees will be able to learn more about the program, eligibility guidelines and see if it could be an option for them or a loved one. See the flyer for additional details and to RSVP. 

Strengthening Communities to be Discussed at Upcoming Meetings

Two meetings scheduled for the evening of Thursday, Nov. 7 in Bloomsburg have a focus on strengthening communities in Columbia and Montour Counties. The first is being hosted by the Town of Bloomsburg to allow new administrative staff in several departments to introduce themselves, discuss concerns, and answer questions. Later that evening, a professional engineer and land use planner will talk about “The Foolproof Town: Identifying Productive Places.” Business and community leaders as well as interested citizens are invited to attend both events.

The meeting being hosted by the Town will begin at 5:00 p.m. at the Bloomsburg Fire Hall, 911 Market Street. In addition to the Town Manager, representatives of the Code Enforcement office and Police Department are scheduled to participate.

The Exchange and DRIVE are then co-hosting Charles Marohn of from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at The Greenly Center on Main Street. Charles L. “Chuck” Marohn, Jr., is the founder and president of Strong Towns and the author of Strong Towns: A Bottom-Up Revolution to Rebuild American Prosperity.  He is a professional engineer licensed in the state of Minnesota and a land-use planner with two decades of experience; he holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a master’s of urban and regional planning, both from the University of Minnesota.  Marohn hosts the Strong Towns Podcast and has presented Strong Towns concepts in hundreds of cities and towns across North America.  He is featured in the documentary film Owned: A Tale of Two Americas and was named one of the Ten Most Influential Urbanists of all time by Planetizen. 

Downtown Danville

Downtown Danville

Among the questions that Strong Towns raises: What development do we want?  What do we not want?  What does “development” even mean?  And how do we ensure wealth creation that benefits all of our fellow citizens? This event aims to energize the region-wide discussion to encourage people from throughout Columbia and Montour counties to work together to find answers for each of our places and for our region as a whole.

Other sponsors include Downtown Bloomsburg, Inc.; the Danville Business Alliance; the Central Susquehanna Community Foundation; the Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau; the United Way of Columbia and Montour Counties; and Community Strategies Group.

Light refreshments will be available at The Greenly Center.

RSVP for the event at The Greenly Center to Oren B. Helbok at The Exchange at 570-317-2596 or email. There is no need to RSVP for the meeting at the Fire Hall. Both events are free to attend.