The election results sealed the deal: The Obama administration’s healthcare reform package will stand. So where does that leave employers?
First off, take heed: The Obama administration has no plans to slow the implementation of the law.
Proof: Based on reports from the recent JCEB health and welfare conference in Washington, DC, the administration doesn’t support delaying the individual coverage mandate, the cornerstone of the reform law.
Some additional highlights from the conference:
- Federal guidance on the “employer penalty” rules under the reform law will be released by early 2013, and
- The DOL will issue additional guidance on the wellness changes under reform before the end of this year.
The fact that the bulk of the reform law is slated to move forward on schedule is troubling news for a number of employers, particularly smaller firms.
Why? Because many are frighteningly underprepared to comply with the upcoming changes.
Case in point: 77% of small businesses aren’t doing any long-term planning around how healthcare reform might impact their business, according to the Fall 2012 Small Employer Benefits Survey by eHealthInsurance.
Plus, 34% of firms incorrectly believe they’re required to buy health insurance for their staff in 2014 – and another 35% aren’t sure whether they have to offer coverage.
These findings mean many firms have their work cut out for them when it comes to preparing for upcoming changes.
Even before the individual mandate (and a score of other changes) takes effect in 2014, there are a number of key reform changes scheduled to take effect next year, including:
- New FSA limit of $2,500 on Jan. 1 (current limit is $5,000)
- Restricted annual limit on essential benefits becomes $2 million
- Employees are scheduled to receive exchange notice by March 1, 2013 (however, with no guidance out this might be delayed)
- Patient-centered outcome research fee on health insurers (which is likely to trickle down to employers) and self-funded plans, and
- A 0.9% increase in Medicare tax for workers earning $200,000 or more, which impacts withholding and W-2 forms.
Plus, many companies are already distributing Summary of Benefits and Coverage statements for the first time, and the W-2 reporting requirements are in play for large firms.
Where to go from here
If you’ve been preparing to comply with the reform law’s current deadlines all along, it’ll just be business as usual for your firm – with some extra work and employee questions as we get closer to 2014.
However, if you’ve been taking a wait-and-see approach, now’s the time to change your course.
A good place to start: Talk with your provider about the most efficient ways to comply with key requirements of the law as they stand right now.
That should make your job easier should any changes to the law occur. And it’s virtually certain changes are coming.