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Business Insurance webinar addresses health care reform compliance

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Employers should prepare to comply with new health benefits requirements under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, speakers said during a new Business Insurance webinar.

The Jan. 29 webinar, “Preparing Employers for the Next Stage of the Affordable Care Act,” examined the many potential revisions of the health care reform law under the Republican-controlled Congress, and the political, legal and regulatory changes that could alter implementation of the law.

Bruce Elliott, benefits and compensation manager for the Society for Human Resource Management, spoke about the key challenges facing employers when adjusting benefits programs to comply with ACA requirements, including plan design changes, reinsurance fees, certification under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, employer penalty rules and reporting coverage.

Drew Crouch, director of government relations at Buck Consultants at Xerox Corp., spoke about Affordable Care Act litigation in the year ahead.

He focused on the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case King v. Burwell, which challenges the availability of premium tax credits for residents of states that did not establish their own public health insurance exchanges.

If tax credits are not available in states that did not create their own exchanges, individuals in those states “will lose monetary assistance with purchasing health insurance coverage, and one result is the number of uninsured Americans would probably increase,” Mr. Crouch said.

Additionally, “some employers could escape employer shared-responsibility penalties if tax credits aren't available in all the states, and that's because the penalties are conditioned on the employees of an employer receiving tax credits,” he said. “For employers who don't offer coverage, a $2,000-per-full-time-employee penalty generally applies … If all of an employer's employees are in a state where tax credits can't be paid, then that employer would have no liability, even if it doesn't offer health insurance coverage at all.”

Finally, Katy Spangler, senior vice president of health policy for the American Benefits Council, outlined the potential revisions to the reform law that may be pursued in Congress, including both health reform legislation and tax reform legislation.

Ms. Spangler agreed with Mr. Elliott that the 40% tax, or the “Cadillac tax,” “is the thing that keeps (her) up at night.” This excise tax, which goes into effect in 2018, applies to employers offering high-cost health benefits to employees.

“I do worry that many employers will not pay the tax,” Ms. Spangler said. “They will either do everything that they can to change their benefit structure to avoid the tax, or if it comes to it they might have to think whether or not it makes sense for them to continue offering benefits to their employees.”

The Business Insurance webinar is available on-demand at www.businessinsurance.com/ACAwebinar.