So, our good friends at Cornerstone sent us this news:
For a while now, small employers (under 50 full-time employees) have been prohibited from helping their employees with unaffordable ObamaPlans by funding their Heath Reimbursement Arrangements with cash for premiums.
This new legislation specifically "enable[s] small employers with fewer than 50 full-time employees to fund qualified stand-alone HRAs. Employees may use the HRA to pay for qualified out-of-pocket medical expenses, including individual polices purchased through the public exchanges."
I reached out to our gurus of all things HRA (and HSA, and FSA) at FlexBank, who confirmed that this does seem to mean that employers can finally go back to throwing premium dollars into tax-advantaged HRAs. There are, of course, some important caveats and restrictions: for example, no subsidies while using HRA funds for premiums, and it's available only to those smaller employers who don't offer group health insurance.
Unfortunately, little actual official guidance is available yet, so we have just the basics. But this is still good news for those smaller employers and their employees.