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The ACA Loophole Of Which Providers Should Be Aware, Part II

Earlier this week, we discussed the three-month grace period afforded to enrollees of qualified health plans (“QHPs”). To recap that article, the ACA requires that QHPs pay claims for the first thirty days of the grace period during which premium payment remains unpaid, but issuers may pend claims for the final sixty days of the grace period. If the balance remains unpaid, the issuer may deny any claims submitted within the final sixty days. More >

The ACA Loophole Of Which Providers Should Be Aware

Providers contracting with state health insurance exchanges may find themselves shortchanged for services provided due to a little-known loophole in the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”).

Under the ACA, an individual who fails to pay his or her insurance premiums has a three-month grace period before the policy is cancelled. Insurers, however, are only responsible for paying claims during the first month of that grace period. The ACA will allow exchange plan, also known as “qualified health plan” (“QHP”), issuers to pend claims submitted by providers during the last two months of a federally subsidized patient’s three-month grace period for premium payment delinquency. If the patient is terminated at the end of the three months, the QHP is free to deny all claims submitted for that patient within the final two months.

Here’s what providers can expect during the three-month grace period:

First month of delinquency:

  • Claims are paid normally. The QHP treats this month as paid even if the enrollee is eventually terminated for non-payment.
  • Providers are not notified of the patient’s delinquency.

Second and third months of delinquency:

  • The QHP has the option to pend claims for services performed until the enrollee pays his or her outstanding premium balance.
  • Providers submitting claims during these two months are notified of the potential that claims submitted for services performed for the enrollee may be denied.
  • If the enrollee pays off the premium balance, providers’ claims are paid at that time.

Terminated after three months of delinquency:

  • The QHP has the option to deny all claims for services performed in the second and third months of delinquency.

Note that the timing of an enrollee’s grace period is based upon the date when a service was rendered, not the date of claim submission. In fact, a patient may enroll in a different QHP during the next open enrollment period regardless of whether they have paid off an outstanding premium balance with their previous insurer.

Providers have the option to seek payment from the patient for denied claims, but a patient who is unable to pay their insurance premium is also unlikely able to pay a provider’s bill. Further, the legal action necessary to recover payment is a costly endeavor for any provider. Check back on Thursday for more information on this topic.

This article is intended as a summary of federal and state law and does not constitute legal advice.

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