The Vermont Statutes Online

Title 8: Banking and Insurance

Chapter 107: HEALTH INSURANCE

Sub-Chapter 001: Generally

8 V.S.A. § 4080a. Small group health benefit plans



[Section 4080a effective until January 1, 2014; see also section 4080a set out below.]

[Section 4080a effective until January 1, 2014; see also section 4080a set out below.]§ 4080a. Small group health benefit plans

(a) Definitions. As used in this section:

(1) "Small employer" means an employer who, on at least 50 percent of its working days during the preceding calendar quarter, employs at least one and no more than 50 employees. The term includes self-employed persons. Calculation of the number of employees of a small employer shall not include a part-time employee who works less than 30 hours per week. The provisions of this section shall continue to apply until the plan anniversary date following the date the employer no longer meets the requirements of this subdivision.

(2) "Small group" means:

(A) a small employer; or

(B) an association, trust or other group issued a health insurance policy subject to regulation by the Commissioner under subdivision 4079(2), (3), or (4) of this title.

(3) "Small group plan" means a group health insurance policy, a nonprofit hospital or medical service corporation service contract or a health maintenance organization health benefit plan offered or issued to a small group, including common health care plans approved by the Commissioner under subsection (e) of this section. The term does not include disability insurance policies, accident indemnity or expense policies, long-term care insurance policies, student or athletic expense or indemnity policies, dental policies, policies that supplement the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Uniformed Services, or Medicare supplemental policies.

(4) "Registered small group carrier" means any person, except an insurance agent, broker, appraiser or adjuster, who issues a small group plan and who has a registration in effect with the Commissioner as required by this section.

(b) No person may provide a small group plan unless the plan complies with the provisions of this section.

(c) No person may provide a small group plan unless such person is a registered small group carrier. The Commissioner, by rule, shall establish the minimum financial, marketing, service and other requirements for registration. Such registration shall be effective upon approval by the Commissioner and shall remain in effect until revoked or suspended by the Commissioner for cause or until withdrawn by the carrier. A small group carrier may withdraw its registration upon at least six months, prior written notice to the Commissioner. A registration filed with the Commissioner shall be deemed to be approved unless it is disapproved by the Commissioner within 30 days of filing.

(d)(1) A registered small group carrier shall guarantee acceptance of all small groups for any small group plan offered by the carrier. A registered small group carrier shall also guarantee acceptance of all employees or members of a small group, and each dependent of such employees or members, for any small group plan it offers.

(2) Notwithstanding subdivision (1) of this subsection, a health maintenance organization shall not be required to cover:

(A) a small employer which is not physically located in the health maintenance organization's approved service area; or

(B) a small employer or an employee or member of the small group located or residing within the health maintenance organization's approved service area for which the health maintenance organization:

(i) is not providing coverage; and

(ii) reasonably anticipates, and demonstrates to the satisfaction of the Commissioner, that it will not have the capacity within its network of providers to deliver adequate service because of its existing group contract obligations, including contract obligations subject to the provisions of this section and any other group contract obligations.

(e) A registered small group carrier shall offer one or more common health care plans approved by the Commissioner. The Commissioner, by rule, shall adopt standards and a process for approval of common health care plans that ensure that consumers may compare the cost of plans offered by carriers and that ensure the development of an affordable common health care plan, providing for deductibles, coinsurance arrangements, managed care, cost containment provisions, and any other term, not inconsistent with the provisions of this title, deemed useful in making the plan affordable. A health maintenance organization may add limitations to a common health care plan if the Commissioner finds that the limitations do not unreasonably restrict the insured from access to the benefits covered by the plans.

(f) A registered small group carrier shall offer a small group plan rate structure which at least differentiates between single person, two person and family rates.

(g) For a 12-month period from the effective date of coverage, a registered small group carrier may limit coverage of preexisting conditions which exist during the six-month period before the effective date of coverage; provided that a registered small group carrier shall waive any preexisting condition provisions for all new employees or members of a small group, and their dependents, who produce evidence of continuous health benefit coverage during the previous nine months substantially equivalent to the common health care plan of the carrier approved by the Commissioner. Credit shall be given for prior coverage that occurred without a break in coverage of 90 days or more.

(h)(1) A registered small group carrier shall use a community rating method acceptable to the Commissioner for determining premiums for small group plans. Except as provided in subdivision (2) of this subsection, the following risk classification factors are prohibited from use in rating small groups, employees, or members of such groups, and dependents of such employees or members:

(A) demographic rating, including age and gender rating;

(B) geographic area rating;

(C) industry rating;

(D) medical underwriting and screening;

(E) experience rating;

(F) tier rating; or

(G) durational rating.

(2)(A) The Commissioner shall, by rule, adopt standards and a process for permitting registered small group carriers to use one or more risk classifications in their community rating method, provided that the premium charged shall not deviate above or below the community rate filed by the carrier by more than 20 percent, and provided further that the Commissioner's rules may not permit any medical underwriting and screening.

(B) The Commissioner's rules shall permit a carrier, including a hospital or medical service corporation and a health maintenance organization, to establish rewards, premium discounts, split benefit designs, rebates, or otherwise waive or modify applicable co-payments, deductibles, or other cost-sharing amounts in return for adherence by a member or subscriber to programs of health promotion and disease prevention. The Commissioner shall consult with the Commissioner of Health, the Director of the Blueprint for Health, and the Commissioner of Vermont Health Access in the development of health promotion and disease prevention rules that are consistent with the Blueprint for Health. Such rules shall:

(i) limit any reward, discount, rebate, or waiver or modification of cost-sharing amounts to not more than a total of 15 percent of the cost of the premium for the applicable coverage tier, provided that the sum of any rate deviations under subdivision (A) of this subdivision (2) does not exceed 30 percent;

(ii) be designed to promote good health or prevent disease for individuals in the program and not be used as a subterfuge for imposing higher costs on an individual based on a health factor;

(iii) provide that the reward under the program is available to all similarly situated individuals and shall comply with the nondiscrimination provisions of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996; and

(iv) provide a reasonable alternative standard to obtain the reward to any individual for whom it is unreasonably difficult due to a medical condition or other reasonable mitigating circumstance to satisfy the otherwise applicable standard for the discount and disclose in all plan materials that describe the discount program the availability of a reasonable alternative standard.

(C) The Commissioner's rules shall include:

(i) standards and procedures for health promotion and disease prevention programs based on the best scientific, evidence-based medical practices as recommended by the Commissioner of Health;

(ii) standards and procedures for evaluating an individual's adherence to programs of health promotion and disease prevention; and

(iii) any other standards and procedures necessary or desirable to carry out the purposes of this subdivision (2).

(D) The Commissioner may require a registered small group carrier to identify that percentage of a requested premium increase which is attributed to the following categories: hospital inpatient costs, hospital outpatient costs, pharmacy costs, primary care, other medical costs, administrative costs, and projected reserves or profit. Reporting of this information shall occur at the time a rate increase is sought and shall be in the manner and form as directed by the Commissioner. Such information shall be made available to the public in a manner that is easy to understand.

(3) The Commissioner may exempt from the requirements of this section an association as defined in subdivision 4079(2) of this title which:

(A) offers a small group plan to a member small employer which is community rated in accordance with the provisions of subdivisions (1) and (2) of this subsection. The plan may include risk classifications in accordance with subdivision (2) of this subsection;

(B) offers a small group plan that guarantees acceptance of all persons within the association and their dependents; and

(C) offers one or more of the common health care plans approved by the Commissioner under subsection (e) of this section.

(4) The Commissioner may revoke or deny the exemption set forth in subdivision (3) of this subsection if the Commissioner determines that:

(A) because of the nature, size, or other characteristics of the association and its members, the employees, or members are in need of the protections provided by this section; or

(B) the association exemption has or would have a substantial adverse effect on the small group market.

(i) A registered small group carrier shall file with the Commissioner an annual certification by a member of the American Academy of Actuaries of the carrier's compliance with this section. The requirements for certification shall be as the Commissioner by rule prescribes.

(j) A registered small group carrier shall provide, on forms prescribed by the Commissioner, full disclosure to a small group of all premium rates and any risk classification formulas or factors prior to acceptance of a small group plan by the group.

(k) A registered small group carrier shall guarantee the rates on a small group plan for a minimum of six months.

( l )(1) A registered small group carrier may require that 75 percent or less of the employees or members of a small group with more than 10 employees participate in the carrier's plan. A registered small group carrier may require that 50 percent or less of the employees or members of a small group with 10 or fewer employees or members participate in the carrier's plan. A small group carrier's rules established pursuant to this subsection shall be applied to all small groups participating in the carrier's plans in a consistent and nondiscriminatory manner.

(2) For purposes of the requirements set forth in subdivision (1) of this subsection ( l ), a registered small group carrier shall not include in its calculation an employee or member who is already covered by another group health benefit plan as a spouse or dependent or who is enrolled in Catamount Health, Medicaid, the Vermont Health Access Plan, or Medicare. Employees or members of a small group who are enrolled in the employer's plan and receiving premium assistance under 33 V.S.A. chapter 19 shall be considered to be participating in the plan for purposes of this section. If the small group is an association, trust, or other substantially similar group, the participation requirements shall be calculated on an employer-by-employer basis.

(3) A small group carrier may not require recertification of compliance with the participation requirements set forth in this section more often than annually at the time of renewal. If, during the recertification process, a small group is found not to be in compliance with the participation requirements, the small group shall have 120 days to become compliant prior to termination of the plan.

(m) This section shall apply to the provisions of small group plans. This section shall not be construed to prevent any person from issuing or obtaining a bona fide individual health insurance policy; provided that no person may offer a health benefit plan or insurance policy to individual employees or members of a small group as a means of circumventing the requirements of this section. The Commissioner shall adopt, by rule, standards  and a process to carry out the provisions of this subsection.

(n) The guaranteed acceptance provision of subsection (d) of this section shall not be construed to limit an employer's discretion in contracting with his or her employees for insurance coverage.

(o) Registered small group carriers, except nonprofit medical and hospital service organizations and nonprofit health maintenance organizations, shall form a reinsurance pool for the purpose of reinsuring small group risks. This pool shall not become operative until the Commissioner has approved a plan of operation. The Commissioner shall not approve any plan which he or she determines may be inconsistent with any other provision of this section. Failure or delay in the formation of a reinsurance pool under this subsection shall not delay implementation of this section. The participants in the plan of operation of the pool shall guarantee, without limitation, the solvency of the pool, and such guarantee shall constitute a permanent financial obligation of each participant, on a pro rata basis. (Added 1991, No. 52, § 1; amended 1993, No. 71, § 2; 1997, No. 24, §§ 2, 3; 2005, No. 191 (Adj. Sess.), § 50; 2007, No. 203 (Adj. Sess.), §§ 3, 12; 2009, No. 128 (Adj. Sess.), § 27; 2009, No. 156 (Adj. Sess.), § I.10.)


[Section 4080a repealed effective January 1, 2014; see also section 4080a effective until January 1, 2014 set out above.]

[Section 4080a repealed effective January 1, 2014; see also section 4080a effective until January 1, 2014 set out above.]§ 4080a. Repealed. 2011, No. 171 (Adj. Sess.), § 41, effective January 1, 2014.