Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Healthcare Reform - Full Speed Ahead!

In June, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the PPACA signed into law on March 21, 2010, is by and large constitutional. What does that mean to you as an employer? The change in course of healthcare delivery will proceed as planned when the law was passed. There will be subtle and not-so-subtle changes to which we must adapt.

As for action that must be taken by employers, there isn’t much. Most of the changes are occurring behind the scenes at the insurance company and insurance provider level. Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) documents will need to be distributed to your employees and large employers (250+ employees) will have to track and report benefit costs to the IRS.

The biggest event will be on January 1, 2014, when the much talked about insurance exchanges are to be effective. Some employers are anxiously anticipating some relief from the health care burden once the exchanges are effective, while others are not so sure. It is clear now that most states will not have a reliable exchange in place by 2014. Theoretically, the federal government will step in and provide an exchange in any state that misses the deadline.

Employers plan on “off loading” their health care coverage to the state exchange by paying a penalty and giving employees cash to buy their own coverage much like employers dropped their old pension plans in favor of the “defined contribution” 401K programs. It is all about controlling costs. Federal tax subsidies are available in the state exchange (a family of four qualifies for the subsidy if their income is less than $88,000).

Employers simply can’t overlook this windfall. The problem will be that no subsidy will be granted if employees enroll in a private or federal exchange. In other words…. No state exchange, No federal subsidy. This may leave the employers holding the bag longer than expected. Off loading benefits may not happen as quickly as 2014. Is this good or bad…it depends on who you ask.

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