Health insurance for small business employees is currently stuck in the middle of a brutal game of tug-of-war.
Over the next two years, the Affordable Care Act is going to come under attack while President Obama meets any changes with vetoes. In June, the Supreme Court will hear a case on whether insurance premium subsidies should be available at the federal level.
As you're being pulled in both directions by the law, it's up to you and your company to determine what these changes mean for your employee benefits strategy.
While it's impossible to know the full impact of the ACA, 2015 will be the year of the marketplace. Whether you go through public or private exchanges, you'll have the ability to expand your benefits strategy to items that may not have been considered true employee benefits in the past.
As you're considering your options, here are four things you should prepare for in 2015 and beyond:
1. More Reporting
The ACA requires companies with more than 50 employees to take responsibility for reporting on their full-time employees and employee benefits.
If it's the first time you'll be reporting on health benefits, make sure you either work with a phenomenal broker or connect your human resources team with an organization like the Society for Human Resource Management. Brokers and HR organizations will keep you informed on recent legislation, health insurance trends, and new benefits. They'll ensure you stay up-to-date on your reporting and benefits.
2. Delays on Mandates
If you run a business with more than 50 employees, you might see further delays of the individual and employer mandates. The delays could impact future benefits strategies and whether you decide to transition your employees to a state or federal exchange.
Medium-sized businesses will need to choose between offering insurance to their employees and letting them buy insurance through the exchanges. Offering the benefits will allow you to avoid penalties and make your business eligible for tax breaks. Letting employees buy through the exchanges will save your company the cost of that insurance.
Recent changes to federal regulations around health reimbursement accounts complicate matters further. Changes to the accounts that help employees pay co-pays and deductibles will restrict employers' opportunities to be creative when funding benefits plans.
3. The Supreme Court's Decision
The Supreme Court may overturn part of the ACA in June when it hears the case on premium subsidies.
There are currently 27 states that legally provide consumers with premium subsidies, and if the law is overturned, millions of people could lose those subsidies overnight. That means some individuals will no longer be able to afford their coverage, and the affected states could set up their own marketplaces, resulting in state-by-state insurance differences.
If and when the law changes, you should pay attention to what your peers are doing in their benefits programs when determining your next move.
4. No Loopholes to Minimum Essential Coverage
The Obama administration recently ruled that plans without substantial coverage for inpatient hospitalization services will not meet the ACA's minimum value threshold.
The ruling closes loopholes that skirted the law's original intent of providing affordable, essential coverage to employees. If your company used minimum essential coverage plans to cover your part-time employees, make sure your plan meets the minimum value threshold.
Employee benefits will remain in flux as long as the law continues to be challenged. There's a lot of misinformation circulating, and you shouldn't believe everything you read on the Internet. Instead of listening to rumors, work with brokers, HR organizations, and your peers to stay informed on the latest changes, and make the best decisions for your company and your employees.