On November 5, 2018, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released Notice 2018-85 to announce that the health plan Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) fee for plan years ending between October 1, 2018 and September 30, 2019 will be $2.45 per plan participant. This is an increase from the prior year’s fee of $2.39 due to an inflation adjustment.
The Affordable Care Act created the PCORI to study clinical effectiveness and health outcomes. To finance the nonprofit institute’s work, a small annual fee — commonly called the PCORI fee — is charged on group health plans.
The fee is an annual amount multiplied by the number of plan participants. The dollar amount of the fee is based on the ending date of the plan year. For instance:
- For plan year ending between October 1, 2017 and September 30, 2018: $2.39.
- For plan year ending between October 1, 2018 and September 30, 2019: $2.45.
Insurers are responsible for calculating and paying the fee for insured plans. For self-funded health plans, however, the employer sponsor is responsible for calculating and paying the fee. Payment is due by filing Form 720 by July 31 following the end of the calendar year in which the health plan year ends. For example, if the group health plan year ends December 31, 2018, Form 720 must be filed along with payment no later than July 31, 2019.
Certain types of health plans are exempt from the fee, such as:
- Stand-alone dental and/or vision plans;
- Employee assistance, disease management, and wellness programs that do not provide significant medical care benefits;
- Stop-loss insurance policies; and
- Health savings accounts (HSAs).
HRAs and QSERHAs
A traditional health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) is exempt from the PCORI fee, provided that it is integrated with another self-funded health plan sponsored by the same employer. In that case, the employer pays the PCORI fee with respect to its self-funded plan, but does not pay again just for the HRA component. If, however, the HRA is integrated with a group insurance health plan, the insurer will pay the PCORI fee with respect to the insured coverage and the employer pays the fee for the HRA component.
A qualified small employer health reimbursement arrangement (QSEHRA) works a little differently. A QSEHRA is a special type of tax-preferred arrangement that can only be offered by small employers (generally those with fewer than 50 employees) that do not offer any other health plan to their workers. Since the QSEHRA is not integrated with another plan, the PCORI fee applies to the QSEHRA. Small employers that sponsor a QSEHRA are responsible for reporting and paying the PCORI fee.
PCORI Nears its End
The PCORI program will sunset in 2019. The last payment will apply to plan years that end by September 30, 2019 and that payment will be due in July 2020. There will not be any PCORI fee for plan years that end on October 1, 2019 or later.
The IRS provides the following guidance to help plan sponsors calculate, report, and pay the PCORI fee: