Thursday, June 28, 2012 was a history-making day in the United States when the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruled the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) was constitutional. It was a decision that shocked many — including me!
For the record, I believe the US system of healthcare absolutely needs reform. And I believe all Americans should have access to affordable care. It baffles me that this battle is still being waged and is so fiercely debated in one of the richest, most powerful countries in the world … However, I also recognize the potential fines on employers could cripple and permanently shut the doors on many already struggling businesses. So I understand why the legislation makes corporations nervous. That reality often makes the legislation feel bittersweet for me.
Ultimately, we’re a long way from full implementation of all aspects of this legislation. Although 2014 is the goal, it isn’t a hard and fast deadline; I suspect there will be lots of modifications to the timeline as the infrastructure is put into place on how this will work. In the meanwhile, I choose to have faith that things will work out for everyone’s good — and I focus my energy on what is going on right now as it relates to the PPACA instead of what could or might be. I encourage you to do the same.
Now that the SCOTUS has ruled in this matter and the PPACA will press forward, it’s time to think about “what’s next” for the organizations we serve. Here’s my tips on that:
- Strengthen your benefits program. Work with your broker/reps/consultants to find options that will strengthen the options your organization offers. Add new benefits or make enhancements to existing plans where you can. Use caution in making any changes to plans that might cause you to lose grandfathered (GF) status, if you’ve already received a waiver from the Department of Health & Human Services. Once you lose GF status, there’s no turning back! But there are lots of enrichments you can make to your programs that won’t force a forfeit.
- Monitor full-time and part-time designations. Employers are only in danger of being penalized for failure to provide adequate coverage to full-time equivalents (FTEs). The standards for “adequate coverage” still haven’t been defined and a definition isn’t expected until some time in 2013. However, FTE is a definition that we already know within our state and our organization. Audit to ensure your current workforce is properly designated and make changes if necessary. Keep in mind that designation changes might qualify adversely impacted employees for unemployment benefits and/or might persuade employees to seek employment elsewhere — not to mention general complaints surrounding fairness and employee morale overall. Anticipate issues and make sure you have a plan to address them. Discuss it with your attorney or union as well.
- Educate yourself. Business leaders, especially HR, cannot afford to rely on television and printed news to gain knowledge about this issue. It is far too complex and politically charged. Instead, we need to find ways to learn about it on our own from sources that are as neutral as possible. I am already seeing free webinars, conference calls and seminars popping up to discuss the impact of the ruling on employers and benefits plans heading into the 2013 enrollment season. Sign up and listen up — for more than just one. If you can’t find anything, check with your insurance broker or with your attorney; I am sure they can point you in the right direction. If not, check with me — I am absolutely willing to help!
There is no doubt that Healthcare Reform is one of the top 5 “Issues of Our Time.” And it gives HR another opportunity to be front-and-center and shine, as we help our organizations to navigate through it.
That’s an honor and a privilege. Don’t screw it up.