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Regulations Clarified In Response to Suit Over Affordable Care Act (ACA) Emergency Services Rules

The Treasury Department and the IRS, along with the Department of Labor and the Department of Health and Human Services, issued a notice of clarification to more thoroughly explain their decision not to adopt recommendations made by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) and certain other commenters regarding T.D. 9744. The challenged regulations govern the coverage of emergency services by group health plans and health insurance issuers under the ACA’s copayment and coinsurance limitations.

The ACEP had sued the federal government over the final regulations, which were issued in 2015 under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148). Among other things, ACEP argued that the federal government did not adequately respond to their public comments regarding the regulations. On August 31, 2017, the court sent the matter back to the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Treasury to respond to the public comments from ACEP.

Greatest of Three Regulations

Under T.D. 9744, a plan or issuer satisfies the copayment and coinsurance limitations in the statute if it provides benefits for out-of-network emergency services in an amount equal to the greatest of three possible amounts:

  • the amount negotiated with in-network providers for the emergency service furnished;
  • the amount for the emergency service calculated using the same method the plan generally uses to determine payments for out-of-network services (such as the usual, customary, and reasonable charges), but substituting the in-network cost-sharing provisions for the out-of-network cost sharing provisions; or
  • the amount that would be paid under Medicare for the emergency service.

Each of these amounts is calculated excluding any in-network copayment or coinsurance imposed with respect to the participant, beneficiary, or enrollee. This is sometimes referred to as the “Greatest of Three” or the “GOT” regulation, because it sets a floor on the amount that nongrandfathered group health plans, and health insurance issuers offering nongrandfathered group or individual health insurance coverage are required to pay for out-of-network emergency services under this provision at the greatest of the three listed amounts.

Clarification of Regulations

In their clarification, the departments state that the regulations provide a reasonable and transparent methodology to determine appropriate payments by nongrandfathered group health plans and health insurance issuers offering nongrandfathered group or individual health insurance coverage for out-of-network emergency services. In addition, the departments maintain that ACEP and other commenters did not provide adequate information to support their assertion that the methods used for determining the minimum payment for out-of-network emergency services under the GOT regulation are not sufficiently transparent or reasonable.

For more information about this article, please contact our tax professionals at or toll free at 844.4WINDES (844.494.6337).

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