Friday, May 11, 2012

While awaiting Court’s ruling, employers should continue to prepare to comply with health reform law

Despite uncertainty around the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), as the nation awaits a likely late June 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, a benefits consultant, 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 U.S. 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 health reform could result in higher levels of health plan enrollment for many employers—leading to an estimated average increase of 2 percent 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, 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; and
  • Participating in a private exchange to support a defined contribution approach.


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