© Copyright ClearPath Benefits

Part 3: The Affordable Care Act: Affordable … or just an Act?

Originally posted by Jordan Shields, Principal

The SSM Group, a UBA Partner Firm in Petaluma, CA

In this blog series we’re taking a look at the unforeseen ways The Affordable Care Act may affect you (the employer). In Part One we looked at the affect on Individuals; in Part Two we looked at the affect on Groups, and in this article we’re looking at the potential solutions.
Death and taxes are inevitable – as is constant tinkering with the social agenda behind major legislation, medical inflation and the attempts of companies to outrun regulations which in turn spawn new regulations, which spawn increasing administrative costs just to meet compliance.
So that won’t change. What can change is your organization’s approach to health insurance.
Conjugate, Educate and Communicate
Benefits are part of an employee’s total compensation. Look at what your compensation costs are and configure the benefits within that paradigm.
Tell employees what is going on with the Affordable Care Act. There is a lot of misinformation and some of this will come back to haunt you, even if it is indirect. Then let employees know what is going on with costs and how you are going to cope – or not – with them. Many employers are reconsidering why certain benefits (primarily medical, now) are being offered and if there is true value being perceived, received and achieved.
If benefits are considered to be valuable (which you only know by asking) then tell employees what they are, how to use them, and where to get advice, service and counsel (which should be from your broker, working in coordination with company management)
Design and Realign
Look at how your plan is designed and determine if that is still most appropriate based on your budget and, more importantly, employee needs, expectations and perceptions. If it is not appropriate, change it – now. If it is, reinforce its value – often.
Perhaps your employees can’t decide – some want one plan and some want another. Offer several, and peg your contribution to a low cost or base plan and let employees “buy up.”
Realignment also pertains to your contribution strategy. Stagger by class or tenure (until the new rules are published), eliminate or reduce dependent payment, or keep the current outline for current employees but have a new strategy for new employees.
Have Fun with Funding 
Why is your plan fully insured (and not just medical, but dental and vision)? There are many excellent administrators and carriers who will provide assistance in sharing risk through new, high deductible or “stop loss” programs, still using provider networks (to keep costs down), still using PBM (pharmacy benefit managers, to stabilize drug costs}, having ancillary networks (for complementary medical services}, offering case management, wellness, disease state management and other techniques.
You can’t outrun change, but you can cope with it. You can’t outrun increased medical costs, despite legislation, but you can manage them more effectively.
Your broker should be able to package a sensible set of solutions for you to examine and use. That is, after all, what they are really paid to do. If they don’t, then “ACA” will stand for “Alternate Counselor Arrangement.”
(This is the third article of a three-part series. Read Part One here and Part Two here.)