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Final Rules Amend Definition of Short Term Limited Duration Insurance, T.D. 9990

The IRS, in connection with other agencies, have issued final rules amending the definition of short term, limited duration insurance (STLDI), and adding a notice requirement to fixed indemnity excepted benefits coverage, in an effort to better distinguish the two from comprehensive coverage.

Comprehensive coverage is health insurance which is subject to certain federal consumer protections. Both STLDI and fixed indemnity excepted benefits coverage generally provide limited benefits at lower premiums than comprehensive coverage, and enrollment is typically available at any time rather than being restricted to open and special enrollment periods. However, the government is concerned about the financial and health risks that consumers face if they use either form of coverage as a substitute for comprehensive coverage, particularly as a long-term substitute. Consumers who do not understand key differences between STLDI, fixed indemnity excepted benefits coverage, and comprehensive coverage may unknowingly take on significant financial and health risks if they purchase STLDI or fixed indemnity excepted benefits coverage under the misunderstanding that such products provide comprehensive coverage.

The Definition of STLDI

STLDI is a type of health insurance coverage sold by health insurance issuers that is primarily designed to fill temporary gaps in coverage that may occur when an individual is transitioning from one plan or coverage to another (for example, due to application of a waiting period for employer coverage). Because STLDI falls outside of “individual health insurance coverage,” it is generally exempt from the Federal individual market consumer protections and requirements for comprehensive coverage. This can be an issue because individuals who enroll in STLDI are often not aware that they will not be guaranteed these key consumer protections.

Under the definition in the final rules, STLDI is health insurance coverage provided pursuant to a policy, certificate, or contract of insurance that has an expiration date specified in the policy, certificate, or contract of insurance that is no more than three months after the original effective date of the policy, certificate, or contract of insurance, and taking into account any renewals or extensions, has a duration no longer than four months in total. For purposes of this definition, a renewal or extension includes the term of a new STLDI policy, certificate, or contract of insurance issued by the same issuer to the same policyholder within the 12-month period beginning on the original effective date of the initial policy, certificate, or contract of insurance.

STLDI issuers must display a notice on the first page (in either paper or electronic form, including on a website) of the policy, certificate, or contract of insurance, and in any marketing, application, and enrollment materials (including reenrollment materials) provided to individuals at or before the time an individual has the opportunity to enroll or reenroll in the coverage, in at least 14-point font. A sample notice has been provided by the agencies.

Fixed Indemnity Insurance

Federal consumer protections and requirements for comprehensive coverage do not apply to any individual coverage or any group health plan in relation to its provision of certain types of benefits, known as “excepted benefits.” Like other forms of excepted benefits, fixed indemnity excepted benefits coverage does not provide comprehensive coverage. Rather, its primary purpose is to provide income replacement benefits. Benefits under this type of coverage are paid in a fixed cash amount following the occurrence of a health-related event, such as a period of hospitalization or illness. In addition, benefits are provided at a pre-determined level regardless of any health care costs incurred by a covered individual with respect to the health-related event. Although a benefit payment may equal all or a portion of the cost of care related to an event, it is not necessarily designed to do so, and the benefit payment is made without regard to the amount of health care costs incurred.

In an effort to give consumers an informed choice, the final rules adopt the requirement of a consumer notice that must be provided when offering fixed indemnity excepted benefits coverage in the group market and update the existing notice for such coverage offered in the individual market. The final rule does not address any other provision of the 2023 proposed rules (NPRM REG-120730-21) relating to fixed indemnity excepted benefits coverage.

Effective Date

The final rules apply to new STLDI policies sold or issued on or after September 1, 2024. For fixed indemnity coverage, plans and issuers will be required to comply with the notice provisions for plan years (in the individual market, coverage periods) beginning on or after January 1, 2025.

NPRM REG-120730-21 is modified.

T.D. 9990

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