At Symposium, Employers Told to Budget Now for Health Care Reform

by Lance Turner  on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013 4:32 pm  

Meanwhile, businesses should continue to make a plan for complying with health care reform. And while the task might be daunting, Wednesday’s speakers insisted that businesses start now to determine how the law will affect them and plan accordingly.

For employers who might be big enough to have to provide health insurance for employees, that process includes running the numbers on the fees and fines that can come with reform.

"The devil’s in the details with this law," Doolittle said during his presentation on accounting and budgeting for reform. "I think making broad assumptions is dangerous."

For example, Doolittle said he is "nervous" about employers who use independent contractors, and noted that the Internal Revenue Service is quickly hiring auditors who specialize in them. 

He said certain businesses, when calculating total number of employees, must pay close attention to the number of contractors they use in case the government counts them as full-time workers.

Doolittle said it’s also important for employers who haven’t traditionally provided insurance -- those with high employee turnover and low compensation, such as restaurants, hotels and retailers -- to budget now for insurance coverage and related expenses.

Businesses also must be prepared for the law’s new reporting requirements, mainly to the IRS, which will help the government determine who gets tax credits or subsidies and whether a business that is offering health coverage is offering qualified plans. 

Speakers also encouraged employers to regard 2014 as a "bonus year" for preparing for the employer mandate. In July, the Obama administration delayed the mandate to 2015 to give employers more time to comply with health reform regulations.

In their respective remarks, Reno and Crone said the delay gives employers time to get their reporting systems in place and make projections about whether they will offer health coverage and if so, how.

The more employers can accomplish in 2014, the more prepared they will be when the plan comes fully online the following year, they said.

Despite all the hard work businesses should do now, there’s a host of new rules, regulations and phases of reform that will offer new challenges in 2015 and beyond. Kellogg outlined some of those in his presentation, including likely changes to essential benefits packages, which could mean standardized packages across all 50 states.

At the same time, symposium speakers advised businesses to not focus too much on the numbers game when deciding between providing insurance or not providing insurance and paying the penalty. 

Providing workers with quality, affordable health care coverage can be a competitive advantage when working to attract or retain high-quality employees, they said.

"It is not just about taxes, it is not just about money," Reno said. "It is a strategic decision."

Wednesday’s symposium was sponsored by Arkansas Blue Cross & Blue Shield, BKD LLP, CGI, Kutak Rock LLP, Regions Insurance Inc. and St. Vincent Health System.



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