Grace Period Included in the Affordable Care Act Could Pose Financial Risk to Healthcare Professionals and Providers
By Michael L. Smith, R.R.T., J.D., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law, and George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
A little known rule published by CMS to implement the Affordable Care Act (ACA) could pose a significant financial risk for doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers. The rule requires health plans participating in the exchanges to provide individuals purchasing insurance through the exchanges a grace period before terminating the coverage for non payment of the premiums. Doctors and other healthcare providers will continue to provide care during the grace period, but the insurance plan will not be required to pay the claims incurred during most of the grace period. The result could be that physicians and other healthcare providers would provide a significant amount of uncompensated care.
Details of the Rule.
The CMS rule provides individuals that purchased subsidized coverage through the exchanges a 90-day grace period before their coverage is cancelled for non payment. The insurance plan is required to pay any claims incurred during the first 30 days of the grace period, but the insurance plan is not required to pay the claims incurred during the last 60 days of the grace period if the individual’s coverage is terminated. The insurance plan is allowed to place all the claims during the last 60 days of the grace period in a pending status. The rule requires the insurance plan to notify the healthcare providers when an insured individual is in the last 60 days of the grace period.
Risk Falls on Healthcare Professionals and Providers.
The rule imposes a significant risk for uncompensated care on the healthcare providers. The rule does require insurers to tell healthcare providers when patients are behind on their premium payments, but he rule does not specify how the health plan will provide that notice to the providers. The only notice some providers receive will probably be the pending status placed on the unpaid claims by the insurance plan.
Many doctors and hospitals are reluctant to participate in insurance plans offered on the exchanges due to the increased financial risk associated with the CMS rule. The result could be that individuals enrolling in insurance plans through the exchanges may find it difficult to find a healthcare provider willing to accept them as patients. CMS has been asked to modify the rule so that insurers are required to pay claims during the entire 90-day grace period.
How Grace Period Can be Manipulated to Benefit Patients.
The CMS rule may also result in individuals manipulating the system. Some individuals may intentionally pay premiums for only part of the year and become serial abusers of the 90 day grace period. Another unintended consequence of the ACA is that individuals that choose not to pay their premiums and have their coverage terminated can reenter the exchange and enroll in a plan regardless of their pre-existing conditions so there is little incentive for some individuals to maintain their coverage.
Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in the Representation of Health Professionals and Providers.
The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, CRNAs, pain management doctors, dentists, pharmacists, psychologists and other health providers in insurance company or other third party payor reimbursements.
To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
Were you aware of the 90-day grace period? As a healthcare professional or provider, are you worried you don’t have adequate financial protection? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.
Fiegl, Charles. “Medical Groups Fear ACA Grace Period Will Lead to Unpaid Claims.” American Medical News. (September 2, 2013). From: http://www.amednews.com/article/20130902/government/130909984/4/
Block, Jonathan. “Providers Protest Rule Putting Them at Financial Risk if Patients Don’t Pay Premiums.” Modern Healthcare. (August 13, 2013). From: http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20130813/NEWS/308139968
Adams, Samuel. “Hospitals May Absorb Risk of Insurers’ Debtor Patients.” Bloogberg. (August 17, 2013). From: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-08-16/hospitals-may-pay-for-insurers-debtor-patients-under-obamacare.html
45 C.F.R. Section 156.270
About the Authors: Michael L. Smith, R.R.T., J.D., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
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