Employers Allowed to Amend FSA and DCAP Plans

January 6th, 2021

Law signA new bill allows employers to make changes (but does not require) to flexible spending accounts (FSA) and dependent care assistance plans (DCAP).

Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021

The bill is called the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021 and was signed on December 27. The bill allows for the following changes:

  • Carryover: FSA and DCAP plans are allowed to carryover all unused amounts from the 2020 plan year to 2021 and from 2021 to 2022. Plans cannot have a grace period and carryover. Prior to the new temporary rules, no carryover of funds was allowed for DCAP accounts and the carryover for the FSA funds was limited to $550.
  • Election amount changes: Participants can make prospective changes to election amounts for FSAs and DCAP for plan years ending in 2021 without a corresponding life event.
  • Grace period: The grace period can be extended to 12 months. Participants would have a 12 month grace period for unused benefits or contributions in FSA and DCAP accounts for plan years ending in 2020 or 2021. Plans may not have a grace period and a carryover. Previously, grace periods were limited to two and a half months after the end of the plan year, with a special COVID-19 related rule allowing for plan years and grace periods ending in 2020 to be extended until December 31, 2020.

The bill also makes specific changes that affect strictly DCAP or strictly FSA (not both):

  • FSA spend down: Allows FSA participants who terminate during the 2020 or 2021 plan year to spend down any unused balance through the end of the plan year in which termination occurred.
  • Updated DCAP age limits: For the 2020 plan year, the bill extends the maximum age of eligible dependents from 12 to 13 (not yet reached 14th birthday) for dependent care FSAs; the increased age limit also applies for unused amounts carried over from the 2020 plan year to 2021. Prior to the temporary rule, DCAP funds could not generally be used for expenses for children age 13 or older.

To make these changes, sponsoring employers must amend their plans.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America is here to help with any changes employers need to make to their FSA and DCAP plans. Remember, with IAA one call does it all.

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AAP Says Families Spot Eating Disorders Too Late

December 30th, 2020

Apple sitting next to small weightsThe American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Adolescence says families often spot eating disorders too late.

Delay in Diagnosis

Studies have shown a delay in identifying boys and young men with eating disorders because of the misconception that they only affect females.

Behaviors that could indicate a boy or young man could be experiencing an eating disorder include:

  • Depression
  • Purging
  • Substance abuse
  • Taking muscle building supplements

Their focus may be on leanness, weight control and muscularity.

The mean age of a child with an eating disorder is 12.5 years old, according to the report. The report was published online December 21 in the journal “Pediatrics.”

Pediatricians can help families reduce stigma around weight through sensitive language and being supportive toward kids of all shapes and sizes. 

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of an eating disorder vary, depending on the type of eating disorder. Some red flags that might indicate an eating disorder include:

  • Excessive focus on food
  • Expressing depression, disgust or guilt about eating habits
  • Extreme weight loss or not making expected developmental weight gain
  • Forcing yourself to vomit or exercising too much to keep from gaining weight after binging
  • Frequently checking the mirror for perceived flaws
  • Frequently skipping meals or refusing to eat
  • Persistent worrying or complaining about being fat
  • Repeated episodes of eating abnormally large amounts of food in one sitting
  • Using laxatives, diuretics or enemas after eating when they are not needed 

Eating disorders seem to coexist with psychological and medical issues such as low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, trouble coping with emotions, and substance abuse.

For some people preoccupation with food becomes a way to gain control over one aspect of their lives.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America wants everyone to lead a healthy life and sometimes the first step is learning how to properly take care of your body. Remember, with IAA one call does it all.

To read more on the subject, click here.

New Legislation to Help with Surprise Medical Claims

December 23rd, 2020

LawShielding insured patients from eye-popping medical bills for unexpected out-of-network and emergency care has been a bipartisan priority for lawmakers, but progress had been stalled for over a year.

New Proposal

The latest proposal calls for parties to negotiate an agreed upon rate or bring their dispute to a negotiator. The bill is entitled the “No Surprises Act” and could be included in an end of the year package.

The bill states that patients are required to pay the in-network cost-sharing amount for out-of-network emergency care for certain ancillary services, provided by out-of-network providers at in-network facilities, and for out-of-network care provided at in-network facilities without the patient’s informed consent.

There would be a 30 day open negotiation period for payers and providers to settle out-of-network claims. In the event the parties are unable to reach a negotiated agreement, they can go to arbitration.  

Billing disputes could be batched together for a mediator who would be allowed to take several factors into consideration: the median in-network rate for the service in question, the complexity of the case and the relative market power of the insurer versus the doctor or hospital, among other factors.

The mediator would not be allowed to account for the charges billed by a provider, which are typically greater than the actual cost of care.

Larger out-of-network bills wouldn’t be outlawed entirely. Providers would still be allowed to bill patients to make up the difference of what insurers would otherwise pay if they inform patients the services won’t be covered and they provide an estimate of charges 72 hours before care.

The prior legislation would have set a benchmark rate health insurers would pay providers for out-of-network care pegged to local charges for in-network rates. Health insurers favored the proposal, but doctors and hospitals did not.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America knows surprise billing can hurt patients’ wallets. IAA hopes that new legislation will help to curb this issue.

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FDA Approves COVID-19 Vaccine for Emergency Use

December 16th, 2020

Needle and vial marked vaccineOn December 11, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in people 16 years of age and older.

COVID-19 Vaccine

The initial delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine consists of nearly 3 million doses. The vaccine is being sent to more than 600 sites nationwide.

The approval comes after vaccines advisors to the FDA voted on December 10 to recommend the FDA grant emergency use authorization to Pfizer and BioNtech’s vaccine. Seventeen members of the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee voted yes, four voted no and one abstained.

Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine offers more than 50 percent protection against the virus within 10 days of receiving the first dose, according to documents released on December 8 by the FDA.  The two vaccine doses are intended to be administered 21 days apart.

Data posted online by the FDA also suggests that the vaccine works well irrespective of recipients’ race, weight or age.  Trial participants are diverse, with representatives across ethnic and racial groups, co- morbidities and age.

Side Effects

The shots may come with side effects, which include:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Muscle and joint pain

Four cases of Bell’s palsy were identified in participants who received the vaccine and none in the group who received the placebo. At least one of the participants recovered within a few days of getting the shot.

There is no evidence that the vaccine caused the problem, but the FDA is expected to recommend long-term follow up.

What IAA has to Say

With vaccine distribution starting, there now seems to be a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. Insurance Administrator of America continues to hope that everyone stays healthy and safe.  Remember, with IAA one call does it all.

Interested in reading more on this topic? Click here.

Technology and Our Health

December 9th, 2020

Apple sitting next to small weightsTechnology plays a vital role in the medical field. Scientists are creating and researching new equipment which can help improve the world’s health and well being.

Socks and Your Vital Signs

New research shows it won’t be long before items like socks or wristbands are tracking a variety of vital signs, from a person’s heart rate and blood pressure to their cholesterol levels and circadian rhythms.

According to a paper published on December 1 in the journal “Applied Physics Reviews,” microfibers and nanofibers will make it possible for pieces of clothing to keep tabs on common ailments, such as diabetes, asthma, obesity, and high blood pressure.

Wearable fibers are sensitive and flexible, capable of being woven directly into a person’s skin—like a tattoo.  These fibers can measure:

  • Blood pressure
  • Cholesterol levels
  • Heart rate
  • Oxygen levels
  • Sleep quality

Wearable monitors could help healthcare providers manage these problems more efficiently, researchers say.

Nanofiber sensors which have properties that derive energy from motion could be ready for market in two to three years.

Meanwhile, more work must be done to make vital-sensing microfibers more durable. Researchers must also develop new ways to power microfiber sensors.

VR Glasses to Help With Pain

Virtual reality glasses or hypnosis can relieve pain and anxiety in people having short medical procedures, a new study finds.

For those getting an IV catheter or stitches to close a wound, these distraction techniques reduce the need for painkillers, say researchers. It was not intended for any kind of surgery.

The study involved more than 100 patients ages six to over 65. Patients were randomly assigned to standard pain medications, VR glasses or hypnosis, before and during the procedure.

Patients who received hypnosis were distracted by continuous talk and positive suggestions to make them feel they were in another place doing something they liked.  The VR glasses provided visual and verbal distraction throughout the procedure. A calming voice and a cartoon movie delivered positive suggestions, similar to hypnosis.

The team found that VR glasses or hypnosis reduced pain and anxiety levels where no painkillers were needed. No adverse side effects were seen and patients in the VR group were more likely to be satisfied than the other groups, researchers noted.  

The findings were released on November 29.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America wants you to know what is going on in the world of health. Keep up to date with IAA!

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