HR groups, consultants weigh in on High Court’s health care reform ruling
Human resources and benefits professionals are at the front lines for employers in ensuring Affordable Care Act (ACA) compliance. Their professional associations have been key advocates for employers in the health reform debate. Here’s a look at what some key HR organizations and consultants had to say in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision upholding ACA as constitutional:
SHRM. The Supreme Court’s decision “leaves no doubt that insurers and employers will move ahead to fully implement the law. The Society for Human Resource Management will remain supportive of HR professionals as they continue implementing requirements of the act,” SHRM, the national HR organization, said in a prepared statement responding to the High Court issued its decision.
“While SHRM is still analyzing the court’s ruling, the ambiguity over the constitutionality of the law largely has been settled for the immediate future.” The organization noted that HR professionals are at the forefront of implementing the ACA’s requirements in the nation’s workplaces and said it would continue to assist members in understanding the ACA and the timeline for implementing its requirements.
“SHRM supports comprehensive reform that lowers health care costs, improves access to high-quality and affordable coverage, and strengthens the employer-based health care system,” the organization noted. “Health care coverage is a critical workplace benefit to millions of employees and an important tool in recruiting and retaining a talented workforce for employers,” according to SHRM. The organization said it would continue to work with the Obama administration, Congress, federal agencies and other key stakeholders “to continue to address our health care reform objectives.”
WorldatWork. The Supreme Court ruling provides clarity, notes Cara Woodson Welch, vice president of public policy and public affairs for WorldatWork, a global HR association of benefits and compensation professionals. “Now that the constitutional debate over the health-care law has been resolved, employers should continue to focus their attention on ensuring that their health-care plans are in compliance with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” she advised in a statement on the health care decision. “While we expect political debate to continue over health-care reform, employers are advised to keep moving forward with implementing PPACA and its governing regulations.”
Woodson Welch also urged the federal government to heed the importance of employer-sponsored health plans as it undertakes the ACA rulemaking process. “Agencies should continue to seek feedback from employers and HR professionals before finalizing any new regulations governing employer-sponsored health-care plans. As new regulations are finalized, employers must be given adequate time to make the necessary changes to their benefit plans,” she stated. “As new provisions of PPACA are enforced, WorldatWork strongly advocates that employers should not be burdened with penalties if they can demonstrate that they are working diligently and in good faith to comply with law.”
Aon Hewitt. Now that the Court has ruled, U.S. employers will turn to executing the strategies for 2013 and 2014 that had been put on hold, according to J.D. Piro, national practice leader in the health law group of Aon Hewitt, a human resources and benefits administration consultant. In turn, the Department of Labor, IRS, and Health and Human Services “will need to work overtime to issue the significant amount of guidance employers need to implement these rules.”
Aon Hewitt encouraged employers to:
- Focus on managing complex compliance issues, including the implementation of summaries of benefits and coverage, understanding preventive care requirements for women for non-grandfathered plans and managing the individual mandate’s necessary reporting requirements.
- Communicate with their employees. Employers need to ensure their employees understand changes associated with the ACA, like the new $2,500 health care FSA limit, and have the resources they need to make decisions accordingly.
- Determine a retiree health care strategy. Many employers are moving away from sponsoring retiree health care programs as they utilize both government and private exchanges. With respect to prescription drug benefits, many employers are moving to a Medicare Part D employer group waiver plan in lieu of applying for the Medicare Part D retiree drug subsidy.
- Explore alternative strategies like corporate health care exchanges to combat continued rising health care costs. A recent Aon Hewitt survey showed that 72 percent of companies are very or somewhat interested in exploring whether a corporate exchange model can be an effective long-term solution for managing the cost of an employee health plan.
Longer term, the consultant predicts employers will continue to look closely at their risk exposure in offering health benefits and designing and implementing strategies to control and manage health risk, absence risk and health care cost risk. “The ACA provides employers an opportunity to redefine their role in health care and create a comprehensive health care strategy in 2013 to reflect this role,” said John Zern, the organization’s Americas health and benefits practice director. “But with or without the ACA, the issues of rising health care costs, workforce health and productivity and absenteeism remain. Employers should continue to look at emerging approaches, such as corporate exchanges, to improve workforce health and performance and break away from the health care cost trend.”