Each year, group health plan sponsors that provide prescription drug coverage are required to disclose to individuals who are eligible for Medicare Part D whether such coverage is creditable or non-creditable. Medicare Part D notices must be provided at least once annually, prior to October 15th, which is the start date of the Medicare Part D annual enrollment period. Creditable coverage means that the coverage is expected to pay on average as much as the standard Medicare prescription drug coverage. For these purposes, group health plans include health plans as defined under ERISA, including certain account-based medical plans, as well as group health plans sponsored for employees or retirees by unions, churches, and federal, state or local governments.
A Medicare Part D late enrollment penalty is imposed on individuals who do not maintain creditable coverage for a period of 63 days or longer following their initial enrollment period for the Medicare prescription drug benefit. Accordingly, this Medicare Part D notice information is essential to an individual’s decision whether to enroll in a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan.
Plan sponsors must provide an annual disclosure notice to Medicare eligible individuals before the start date of the annual enrollment period for Medicare Part D, and at various other times as required under the law, including to a Medicare eligible individual when he/she joins the plan. The annual Medicare Part D open enrollment period for the 2020 year begins October 15, 2019 and runs through December 7, 2019. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has provided model disclosure notices that can be tailored by plan sponsors to satisfy their notice obligation.
Notice must be provided to all Medicare Part D-eligible individuals, which may include active employees, disabled employees, COBRA participants and retirees, as well as their covered spouses and dependents. As a practical matter, group health plan sponsors will often provide the disclosure notices to all plan participants by including the notice in the new hire and annual open enrollment materials. If a plan sponsor chooses to provide the disclosure notice with other plan participant information, the creditable coverage disclosure must be prominent and conspicuous. This means that the disclosure notice portion of the document—or a reference to the section in the document that contains the disclosure notice portion—must be prominently referenced in at least 14-point font in a separate box, bolded or offset on the first page of the provided plan participant information. The notices may be sent electronically under certain circumstances. CMS has issued guidance indicating that health plan sponsors may use the electronic disclosure standards under Department of Labor (DOL) regulations in order to send the creditable coverage disclosure notices electronically.
A related disclosure rule requires that sponsors complete the Online Disclosure to CMS Form to report the creditable coverage status of their prescription drug plan. This online disclosure should be completed annually no later than 60 days from the beginning of a plan year (contract year, renewal year), within 30 days after termination of a prescription drug plan, or within 30 days after any change in creditable coverage status. See our Update for more information on this requirement.
For a list of entities subject to the Medicare D disclosure requirement, see CMS’ Entities Required to Provide Disclosure to All Medicare Eligible Individuals. The notice requirements apply to insured and self-funded plans, regardless of plan size, employer size or grandfathered status. See the CMS Creditable Coverage web page for general Part D notice guidance for employer and union-sponsored plans.
Should you have questions about this or any aspect of group health plan requirements, contact your Conner Strong & Buckelew account representative toll free at 1-877-861-3220. For a complete list of Legislative Updates issued by Conner Strong & Buckelew, visit our online Resource Center