insurance

Employers are on the hunt! Says a new survey…

Seems like everyone wants to know what’s on the minds of employers and what they are thinking about insurance. A new survey conducted by Wells Fargo Insurance interviewed 70 employers across the U.S. Results show that as employers and their employees face higher costs, deductibles and copays the employers are searching for ways to control costs and help employees improve their health.

The survey findings also show the top three employer product innovations this year include:

  • Accountable Care Organizations (ACO’s)
  • increased wellness programs
  • narrow provider network offerings

47% of survey respondents say they will develop their own private proprietary exchange by 2015.

Read the full article at Wall Street Journal online, Survey: Cost of Healthcare Claims Continue to Rise; Interest in Private Exchanges Increases

Are you an employer? What are you thinking about insurance?

Individual Mandate and the March 31 Deadline

Info for Part-time or Other Employees Currently Without Health Insurance

There’s lots of noise out there related to Obamacare’s individual mandate and the rapidly approaching March 31 open enrollment deadline. Here’s summary information for those part-time or other employees that currently do not have any health insurance:

  • The deadline to sign up for individual health insurance is March 31 – less than a week away. This marks the end of the open enrollment period.  After March 31, those without coverage will not be able to purchase an individual health plan (on or off the exchange) until the next open enrollment period beginning in November — unless they have a qualifying event such as marriage, birth of a child, loss of employer sponsored health coverage, move out of state, have a significant income change, etc.  If that’s the case, then they can enroll during a special enrollment period.
  • Extensions may be available based on information released just yesterday.  According to latest reports if someone started to apply for coverage through the HealthCare.gov website but could not finish by March 31 or they experienced other glitches in trying to sign up, they will have until about the middle of April to seek an extension.  Individuals can qualify for an extension by checking a blue box on the HealthCare.gov website indicating that they’ve tried to enroll before the deadline. The following are links to recent news stories that reported the extension that was officially announced yesterday:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/26/usa-healthcare-enrollment-idUSL1N0MN04Y20140326

http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2014/03/25/White-House-Extends-Enrollment-Time-Obamacare

  • If someone goes without health coverage after March 31, they may be subject to health reform law’s tax penalty come tax time next April for not having coverage.  The penalty this year is $95 or up to 1% of income, whichever is greater.
  • Some financial assistance may be available.  Individuals and families with incomes between 100 percent and 400 percent of the poverty level (about $11,490 to $45,960 for individuals) may qualify of premium tax credits (also referred to as premium subsidies).  Tax credits are based on a percentage of household income and are applied on a sliding scale for those that qualify.

Individuals who want to obtain health care insurance before the March 31 deadline should visit Healthare.gov to begin their application process.

Another Delay Leads to More Certainty, More Uncertainty

In the coming days, HHS will announce another change in the health care roll out. This time, they are going to allow carriers to keep and issue policies that do not meet ACA guidelines. This adds to the recent pushback on the employer mandate to 50-100 employee companies AND the lessening of enrollment requirements on larger employers.

The Certainty. 

Groups and individuals that embraced the “early renewals” last December will now have the choice to keep those plans for another year. This will make the late summer and early fall less noisy as many will likely sign back on for another year.

The Uncertainty.

Will new products emerge?  If carriers are allowed to issue policies that do not conform with ACA, will some move to issue less expensive policies or even offer lower rates to underwritten non-ACA plans? Employers and Individuals may buy these plans if they are less costly, even if they may be available only for a year.

Will this push back the “individual mandate?” Since the mandate requires one to have a “compliant plan,” how will the IRS enforce this when HHS allows non-compliant plans to be offered?

ACA’s goal, in large part, is to regulate the market. While this and other adjustments to ACA may make the short term more quiet, it raises questions about how they will enforce the law down the road. At some point HHS is going to have to decide what they are going to stand behind (and enforce) and what they are going to abandon.

As the law gets tweeked, it increases the chances that companies will do whatever makes sense to them and stop focusing on what they need to do in order to follow the law. If employers conclude that the law is a moving target, they may just create their own strategy, their own certainty.

More Changes / Delays to the Employer Mandate

3 Employer Take-a-ways

The administration announced late Monday yet another change-up to one of the major focal points embedded in the Affordable Care Act  –  the employer mandate. Here are the three biggest aspects of the announcement that employers of all sizes need to know:

Employers with 100+ Employees

Employers with 100 or more workers will only have to cover 70% (down from 95%) of eligible employees in 2015 to avoid fines. The original 95% benchmark now goes into effect in 2016 and beyond.

Employers with 50 – 100 Employees

Employers in this category get a reprieve of sorts through 2015 as the mandate is delayed altogether for another year. As things stand today, they must begin offering coverage to eligible employees in 2016 in order to avoid fines associated with the new law.

Employers with fewer than 50 Employees

Under 50 employers (already exempt from the employer mandate to provide coverage) will now be exempt in 2015 and each year going forward from the reporting requirements they were subject to as originally outlined in the new law.

Despite speculation by many, as of yet there have been no changes or reprieves to the individual mandate that went into effect on January 1 of this year. It remains unchanged.

For more detailed information on Monday’s announcement see articles that appeared in the Washington Post and Fiscal Times

For an expert analysis, read Bob Laszewski’s piece at Health Care Policy and Marketplace Review.

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