The new healthcare insurance regulations kicking in this fall are expected to hit smaller enterprises hard in terms of costs and paperwork.
With or without Supreme Court-dictated changes to health care reform law, a leading advisory service recommends that employers should prepare to comply and pursue additional steps to manage costs.
Mercer Consultants is advising its employer clients to:
- Proceed with plans to comply with the law as it stands, since the requirement to communicate with employees goes into effect this fall
- However the Supreme Court rules, employers’ #1 objective should be cost control
Despite uncertainty around the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as the nation awaits a Supreme Court ruling on the law’s constitutionality, employers should continue taking steps to ensure they are in compliance with the law as it stands, Mercer advises.
“It will be some time before a ruling is issued. In the meantime, employers should proceed with plans to comply with the law,” says Sharon Cunninghis, a Senior Partner and leader of Mercer’s US health and benefits business. “For example, employers need to get started now on the new communication requirements that go into effect this fall, so they can't afford to wait until June to see what the Supreme Court does.”
Also, while reform could result in higher levels of health plan enrollment for many employers – an estimated average increase of 2% in 2014 – they need to continue to pursue cost control strategies no matter what the outcome of the case before the Supreme Court. There are a number of strategies for achieving this, Ms. Cunninghis advises, including:
- Using low-cost consumer directed health plans (CDHPs) as a default plan for auto-enrollment or as the sole option for newly eligible part-time employees
- Narrowing the scope of benefit spending by making some employer-paid benefits voluntary (paid by the employee), and reducing spending on dependent coverage
- Creating a healthier workforce by selecting health plans with better-coordinated care management for high-cost patients, adding or improving wellness and health management programs, or implementing high-quality network plans
- Participating in a private exchange to support a defined contribution approach. Mercer’s Exchange Suite offers employers three tailored options for providing high-quality, cost-competitive health coverage to both active and retired employees. More information can be found at http://www.mercer.com/exchangesuite.
Extensive, up-to-date information on employers and health care reform is available at http://www.mercer.com/us-health-care-reform.