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Employers Confident Affordable Care Act Will Continue

JUNE 14, 2012

85 Percent of Employers Surveyed Are Continuing with Compliance Plans, Including SBC Deadline, Confident ACA Regs for the Most Part Will Continue.

BOSTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–As the Supreme Court decides the fate of the Affordable Care Act, employers surveyed by HighRoads, the industry leader in employer health care compliance and benefits management, appear confident ACA will continue, and some 85 percent are moving forward to meet compliance deadlines, including the September 23, 2012, deadline for enactment of the new Summary of Benefits Coverage (SBC) regulation. The exception is the mandate for individual coverage—slightly more than half of the respondents said the ACA will be upheld but the individual mandate is likely to be struck down when the Supreme Court rules in late June.

“They will most certainly want to know the rationale behind any changes to their benefits, especially since so many of the ACA’s changes to date have been perceived by employees as positive, including extending coverage to adult children, 100 percent coverage of preventive care and the elimination of lifetime limits.”

In other findings, 32 percent of respondents think the law will stand as is, and the remaining 14 percent felt the Court would strike down the entire law. Respondents ranged in size from fewer than 5,000 employees to more than 100,000 employees. The majority of respondents have more than 5,000 employees.

“Employers know there is no time to play catch up in order to meet SBC requirements for September. They are strategically planning and executing on compliance regulations, realizing the complexity of meeting ACA regulations, if the law remains partially, or even entirely intact,” said Kim Buckey, Principal, HighRoads Compliance Communications Practice.

While the vast majority is moving forward with their planning and compliance initiatives, five percent of respondents reported that they were waiting to make a decision about how to handle SBCs until after the Supreme Court has ruled. Not surprisingly, these respondents tended to have fewer employees—and fewer plan options—than the rest of the responding organizations. The remaining ten percent were evenly split between postponing finalization of their plan designs for 2013 and postponing their pay or play analysis (which would have more impact in 2014—but would certainly require laying the groundwork with employees over the course of the next 12-18 months).

“It’s prudent for employers to plan for continued enactment of the ACA since it is likely that at least some of the key provisions of the law will be upheld. Planning will ensure that employers remain in compliance with the regulations that are already in effect during 2012, and lay a more solid groundwork for any regulations that will come into effect, in full force, by 2014,” said Thomas Barker, partner in the Foley Hoag law firm.

Distressingly, 55 percent of respondents had no plans to communicate anything to employees about the company’s position on the ACA, or the company’s plans if the ACA is overturned. Thirty nine percent had not yet communicated but did plan to do so, and 6 percent had already communicated to employees.

“We would encourage employers to take another look at their ACA communication plans and where it fits within their overall HR and benefits communication strategy. The ACA remains a rather large question mark in employees’ minds, and they will naturally look to their employers—who provide their benefits—for information about how the Act and any changes to it, will affect them. As we look ahead to the fall open enrollment season providing employees a status check on where the company stands in relation to the ACA will give employees a better foundation from which to choose or revise their individual plans,” said Buckey. “They will most certainly want to know the rationale behind any changes to their benefits, especially since so many of the ACA’s changes to date have been perceived by employees as positive, including extending coverage to adult children, 100 percent coverage of preventive care and the elimination of lifetime limits.”