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Thursday, 28 June 2012 15:21

Health care ruling pushes employers to start planning

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WEST MICHIGAN — This morning’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling largely upholding the federal Affordable Care Act heightens the need for employers that have not already done so to begin planning for how they’ll comply with provisions in the law.

In the near term, employee health benefits will need to begin covering women’s preventative health as of Aug. 1. In 2013, employers will have to provide employees a simple summary of benefits and report on their W-2 forms the cost of providing health coverage.

In the long term, employers will have to decide whether to even continue providing employee health benefits or pay a penalty and have employees buy their own individual coverage from a state-run health exchange beginning in 2014.

If an employer hasn’t already been working to understand what they need to do to comply with the law, they need to move quickly, said health care attorney April Goff of Warner Norcross & Judd LLP in Grand Rapids. Goff estimates that up to 40 percent employers may not have been preparing for the Affordable Care Act, partly because they were awaiting the Supreme Court ruling.

“Now they’re going to have to jump on that horse and take care of it very fast,” Goff said. “Some people put off stuff this year, and now they have to have it done by the end of the year.”

Goff also advises employers who haven’t started preparing to not wait until after the November election and hope for the possibility that a new Congress and president in 2013 would repeal the law. If that doesn’t happen, “they’ll find themselves in a bind,” she said.

One of the long-term options for employers is to have employees buy their own coverage through a health exchange states are required to have established by 2014.
Kirk Roy, who leads health care reform for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, says employers need to think strategically about their health benefits and work with the benefit provider to do a cost analysis.

“They need to think about what they want to do,” Roy said.

The state Senate earlier this year passed legislation to create a state-run health exchange where small businesses could shop for coverage and compare four varying benefits levels. The GOP-run House delayed action on the bills until after the Supreme Court ruling.

After this morning’s Supreme Court ruling, Gov. Rick Snyder urged House lawmakers to move on the bills to create the MiHealth Marketplace and avoid having the federal government do it for the state.

“While I may not agree with everything in the law, now that the Supreme Court has essentially upheld the act, we must act quickly to avoid an undue burden on Michigan residents and job providers,” Snyder said in a statement. “Working with our legislative leaders to establish the MiHealth Marketplace will allow Michiganders to make decisions regarding what will be covered as opposed to Washington, D.C. making those decisions for us. It will also allow us to draw down federal dollars to assist with the costs of complying with the law.”

Even organizations that were opposed to the Affordable Care Act and wanted it overturned now say the Legislature needs to complete work on the health exchange in Michigan.

“There’s no way around it,” said Wendy Block, director health policy at the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. “Michigan should be making decisions for Michigan.”
Given the complexity of getting a health exchange set up, Blue Cross Blue Shield’s Roy said legislative action cannot come soon enough “so we can have definition and clarity” on how it will operate.

“The sooner, the better, as far as we’re concerned,” Roy said. “We need time to make whatever is legislated happen.”

Read 11250 times Last modified on Sunday, 29 July 2012 22:32

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