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Obama Wins Re-election: Health Care Reform Law Here to Stay
After hard-fought campaigns by both candidates, President Barack Obama has been re-elected for a second term in office. Obama’s victory in the election, along with last summer’s Supreme Court decision upholding the health care reform law, cements the Democratic Party’s dedication to the legislation.
While opponents of the law have called for its repeal, health care reform’s supporters consider the legislation to be the major achievement of Obama’s first term. Obama’s re-election, along with continued Democratic control of the Senate, means that implementation of the law will now continue without additional roadblocks.
WHAT DO EMPLOYERS HAVE TO DO NEXT?
With the landscape of employer-provided health care potentially changing over the next few years, employers should consider their future plans related to their role in employee health care. They may have to make some big decisions about whether to continue providing coverage to their employees. The “pay or play” penalties provide some incentive for employers to continue coverage, since they will be at risk for significant penalties if they do not. However, employers may decide that paying the penalty is more cost-effective than continuing to pay the ever-increasing costs of health care for employees and their families.
On the other hand, uncertainty among employees about the quality and cost of individual health coverage continues to make employer-provided health coverage an attractive recruiting and retention tool. Because of these advantages, most employers plan to continue offering coverage for now. The additional uncertainty for employers, with compliance obligations hinging on court decisions and the political process, has made many companies hesitant to make any large-scale changes.
Whatever their future decisions may be, employers that will continue to sponsor group health plans for the near future must prepare for upcoming deadlines. Significant health care reform provisions with looming effective dates include:
WHAT GUIDANCE WILL WE SEE?
Regulations on a number of issues remain outstanding. The regulatory agencies responsible for implementation and enforcement of the health care reform law—the Departments of Labor, Treasury and Health and Human Services— began issuing additional guidance once the Supreme Court upheld the law. Additional guidance is expected now that the election is over.
Issues that will likely be addressed in future guidance include:
State governments may also take further steps to establish the health insurance exchanges required by the health care reform law. The federal government will step in and set up exchanges for states that fail to establish their own exchanges. Many states have delayed implementation and will need to accelerate their efforts if they want to run their own exchanges.
CHALLENGES FOR IMPLEMENTATION
As we get closer to full implementation of the health care reform law, questions linger about whether the framework is in place for all pieces to be operational by their deadlines. Insufficient staffing of the responsible agencies is one potential issue, along with employer and state government hesitation or inability to implement certain parts of the law. Compliance efforts are likely to pick up now that the election is over.