Here is the complete Health Reimbursement Account Final Rule. It doesn't really help our cause. Even if it did help our cause, this rule has yet to be litigated, and I would not be surprised if many of its provisions suffer the same fate as the Association Health Plan Final Rule when it was overruled in State of New York v. U.S. Department of Labor, 18-cv-1747, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia.
Page 138 extending onto page 139
"Some commenters requested that the Departments confirm that certain excepted benefits, including standalone dental coverage, hospital indemnity or other fixed indemnity coverage, and coverage for a specific disease or illness, provide medical care within the meaning of Code section 213(d) and, therefore, that expenses for these types of coverage are reimbursable by an individual coverage HRA. Some commenters requested that expenses paid with regard to direct primary care arrangements be recognized as expenses for medical care under Code section 213(d). In addition, one commenter requested clarification of whether payments for participation in health care sharing ministries qualify as medical care expenses under Code section 213(d). An HRA, including an individual coverage HRA, generally may reimburse expenses for medical care, as defined under Code section 213(d), of an employee and certain members of the employee’s family. Under Code section 213(d), medical care expenses generally include amounts paid (1) for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, or for the purpose of affecting any structure of function of the body; (2) for transportation primarily for and essential to medical care; (3) for certain qualified long-term care services; and (4) for insurance covering medical care. Neither the proposed rules nor the final rules make any changes to the rules under Code section 213. Thus, any issues arising under Code section 213, and any guidance requested by commenters to address those issues, are beyond the scope of this rulemaking. The Treasury Department and the IRS, however, appreciate the comments and plan to address some of these issues in future rulemaking or guidance."
Page 143 states:
"Finally, some commenters requested that direct primary care arrangements not be treated as a health plan or coverage under Code section 223, so that an individual may have a direct primary care arrangement without becoming ineligible for HSA contributions. Similar to the discussion of Code section 213 in the preceding section of this preamble, neither the proposed rules nor the final rules make any changes to the rules under Code section 223. Thus, any issues arising under Code section 223, and any guidance requested by commenters to address those issues, are beyond the scope of this rulemaking."
Page 180-181 states:
"Several commenters inquired whether an excepted benefit HRA could reimburse expenses related to participation in a health care sharing ministry or a direct primary care arrangement. One commenter asked whether reimbursement could be provided for categories of excepted benefits other than “limited excepted benefits,” such as those in which benefits for medical care are secondary or incidental (for example, travel insurance). This commenter expressed concern that there could be potential conflicts under rules regarding taxable fringe benefits under the Code. Some commenters requested clarification more generally regarding whether an excepted benefit HRA may only reimburse excepted benefits that pay health benefits or all excepted benefits, with some advocating that excepted benefit HRAs be allowed to reimburse all expenses for all excepted benefits and some advocating that the excepted benefit HRA only be allowed to reimburse expenses for excepted benefits that are medical care. The Departments clarify that an HRA, including an excepted benefit HRA, generally may reimburse medical care expenses of an employee and certain of the employee’s family members (subject to the prohibition on the reimbursement of certain premiums that apply for excepted benefit HRAs).213 Neither the proposed nor the final rules make any changes to the rules under Code section 213. Thus, any issues arising under Code section 213, and any guidance requested by commenters to address those issues, are beyond the scope of this rulemaking. The Treasury Department and the IRS, however, appreciate the comments and anticipate addressing some of these issues in future rulemaking or guidance."
See Page 135 and 136 for a Health Care Sharing Ministry discussion. These groups have not benefited either:
"Health Care Sharing Ministries Several commenters requested that integration of HRAs with health care sharing ministries be permitted, in part to provide an alternative option that alleviates conscience issues faced by employers and employees with respect to individual health insurance coverage, and in part due to the success of health care sharing ministries in providing affordable, flexible choices. The Departments are of the view that HRAs cannot be integrated with health care sharing ministries, consistent with PHS Act sections 2711 and 2713. Under current law, health care sharing ministries are not subject to those provisions, nor are they required to comply with other market requirements that apply to individual health insurance coverage. Health care sharing ministry arrangements are also not MEC.148 Therefore, the integration of an individual coverage HRA with these arrangements would not result in a combined arrangement sufficient to satisfy PHS Act sections 2711 and 2713, which means that such a combined arrangement would not provide the protections afforded by those provisions. One commenter asserted that the proposed rules would impermissibly burden the exercise of religion for purposes of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA)149 because they would not allow individual coverage HRAs to be integrated with health care sharing ministries and thus would make participation in health care sharing ministries more expensive relative to individual coverage HRAs. Specifically, the commenter asserted that the proposed rules would impermissibly burden the free exercise of religion because, by not allowing HRAs to be integrated with health care sharing ministries, the rules would extend certain tax advantages to individual coverage HRAs that are not extended to participants in health care sharing ministries. However, although the RFRA provides a claim to persons whose religious exercise is substantially burdened by government, the Supreme Court has held that “a generally applicable tax [that] merely decreases the amount of money [an individual or entity] has to spend on its religious activities” does not impose a substantial burden on the exercise of religion. Consequently, the final rules do not allow individual coverage HRAs to be integrated with health care sharing ministries."
If the goal is to bring a DPC quality service to large employers and do it in a tax advantaged way, then DPC practices are probably best served to proceed in the same manner they would have prior to the announcement of the current HRA Final Rule. HRAs continue to define eligible medical expenses based upon the same 213(d) definition relied upon by HSAs. While one could now theoretically use HRA dollars to buy individual insurance plans (or even a DPC focused STLDI plan) joining any kind of plan that provided for first dollar coverage in some way (such as a DPC clinic without a deductible or co-pay) would still lead to individual HSA ineligibility.
I think the HITECH Exception - which has been around (and overlooked) for many years is much more useful for DPC physicians and patients than anything discussed in this 497 page HRA Final Rule. Since my HITECH discussion (Exercising Patient Rights under the HITECH Act) is only three pages, I’m also betting you will be more likely to read it.