Archives for ObamaCare

Solving the Affordable Care Act Puzzle

Affordable Care Act Puzzle b

Four and one-half years after its passage, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obama Care as some prefer, still raises a lot of questions from employers.  We in the staffing industry have had our own unique questions and WFA Staffing has managed to solve that puzzle for itself and for its client companies.

The basics are these:

  • Businesses of 100 or more active full-time equivalent employees must be insuring their employees by this coming January 1st.
  • Businesses of 50-99 full time equivalent employees have until January 1, 2016 to be in compliance.
  • Businesses of less than 50 full time equivalent employees are not required to provide insurance for their workers.

Employers who have variable hour employees have the most difficult time in determining which is a full time equivalent.  Those with this issue are well-advised to contact a qualified health insurance broker for help in making that determination.

Pricing of health plans has so far been reasonably stable.  It is feared that with the ACA law dropping some of the protections for insurance companies as of January 1, 2017 this could cause a spike of significance in premium rates.  Those protections were written into the law to keep insurers from being hit with large losses given the elimination of health questionnaires and given the fact that all comers had to be provided with insurance.  The artificial stop loss and reinsurance protections go away at the end of 2016.

Knowledgeable sources have projected that this change in the law will account for as much as a 96% increase in single rates and 46% for family rates in 2017.

There is much remaining to be seen so far as the ACA is concerned but for now at least health insurance protection is available to anyone regardless of past or current health and at what pass for reasonable prices.

Todd Strehlow- CFO

Todd Strehlow

The New Healthcare Law – Part 4 on the Affordable Care Act

PPACA-Magnifying Glass

The New Healthcare Law – Part 4 on the Affordable Care Act

Even before the Affordable Care Act (aka PPACA or ObamaCare if you prefer) is actually implemented, word-of-mouth stories continue to mount concerning people who have lost hours to keep them at fewer than 30 per week or 130 per month to avoid them being considered ‘full time’.  Similar stories continue to mount about people who have been advised that they will lose their health care plans when the new year arrives because the employer is simply dropping its plan knowing that the ‘exchanges’ will be available to their employees.

If you are an employer, you know that the cost of health care plans continues to rise even before the creation of ObamaCare.  The rate of increase simply due to inflation was high enough to give employers heartburn each year as they made decisions about what they could afford and asked themselves questions about how their employees would react.

The new world of health plans is influenced by inflation just as in the past.  But those same plans are also influenced by changes that are being made law come January 1st.  Those changes include the elimination of any clauses limiting coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.  Those changes include the collapsing of premium rate bands so that rates for a 64 year-old can be no more than three times the rate for a 26 year-old.  These are the two changes that probably make the most difference in costs.

Those employers that have a calendar year health plan arrangement have received or are soon to receive the renewal premium rates for 2014.  The heartburn has increased for the great majority of those employers.  We have seen actual rates for one employer that were increased by 21% year over year for the current plan.  That is significantly higher than the health care cost inflation rate, and that suggests that the Affordable Care Act played a significant part in the increase.

We suspect that a change in what has been the norm for the employer-employee relationship may be forthcoming over the next several years.  Employers will, if the cost impact is as large as some have predicted, be looking at any and all possibilities to enable them to remain competitive in the marketplace.  Employees will very probably see more changes over the next few years, as well.  Not all of these changes are going to be a pleasant experience for either employers or employees.

We at WFA Staffing are mindful of this phenomenon since we are also experiencing it just as are all other employers.  Our crystal ball is likely a bit cloudy today as is that of most employers, but we are committed to make our way through the changes just as we have for many years.  We are committed to helping our employer clients and our employees, temporary and full time, as they each work their way through the changes.  We prefer to look at the new opportunities as opposed to lamenting about change, and we suspect that you are too!  Give us a call and we’ll see if we can help you find opportunities, as well.

Al Campbell Pic

 

 

The New Health Care Law – Part 3 on the Affordable Care Act

healthcare-bubble

We are now several days into the first open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  The stories we hear are those of frustration, delay, inability to log on to the ‘marketplace’ and so on.  But, we have to remember that this enrollment period will last until March 31, 2014.  If you want coverage to be effective on January 1, 2014, you must’ve completed enrollment by December 14, 2013.

Wisconsin’s Health Insurance Risk Sharing Pool (HIRSP) has created an enrollment checklist for its current members since they’ll be migrating to the new marketplace on January 1st.  That checklist is found at http://www.hirsp.org/pdfs/2013gettingreadytoshopmarketplace.pdf.  This is a very well-constructed worksheet and will be of value to anyone planning to access the marketplace to seek health care coverage.

Remember that Wisconsin is using a federally facilitated exchange (FFE) so the logon for that marketplace will be http://www.healthcare.gov .  Once on that site, you’ll be guided through the process.

The Kaiser Family Foundation has also loaded the Silver plan 2 (the second lowest priced Silver plan in the state) for each state on its website that provides estimates of premium cost and tax credits that may be available.  You can logon to http://kff.org/interactive/subsidy-calculator/   and find the link to Wisconsin and the form to be completed to obtain the estimated net cost of that particular plan.  Remember that the Silver plans in the marketplace is one that pays 70% of actuarial value for the benefits you obtain leaving you with responsibility for the remaining 30% of expenses.  This will at least give you an idea of what, if any, tax credit you may expect to see to help offset part of the premium.

A final thought that is very important is this, check the provider directory for the insurance plan you are considering to be certain that your physician is in the network for that plan, and to be sure that he or she accepts the reimbursements negotiated for this plan.  If you have any doubt, note the name of the plan you are considering and telephone your provider to verify that he or she is participating in that plan.

It is most important that you be prepared to be very patient as you sit down to access the state marketplace.  Remember the reports of delays, lost connections, overloaded websites, etc.  You may be among the lucky ones that make it through the system the first time you sit down at your computer…or you may have to try multiple times to access the site.  Think of the tens of millions of people who will be using this site, and that may help to lower your heart rate.  🙂

Al Campbell Pic

 

 

The New Health Care Law – Part 2 on the Affordable Care Act

Al Campbell Pic

 

We are moving toward the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as ObamaCare.  October 1st is the deadline for employers to provide Notice letters to their employees.  The marketplaces (or exchanges) are to be operational on October 1st and the initial open enrollment period begins on October 1st and runs through March 31, 2014.  Coverage selected through the marketplace becomes effective on January 1, 2014 for those who have enrolled prior to that date.

The rumors of layoffs and reduction in hours available to employees below the new fulltime level of 30 hours per week or 130 hours per month abound.  We still await the actual rates to be charged for the new plans.  Some states are suggesting that rates will be lower than before while other states are talking about increased rates.  Projections by the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance for Wisconsin show increases in rates for the plans filed and approved for sale in exchanges in Wisconsin.  A 21 year-old person in Dane County can, according to the percentages calculated by the office, expect to see an increase of some 125% in rates.

Against this backdrop, the federal government has waived penalties (originally $100/day/employee) for employers that do not issue the Notice letters on time, and has waived any employer penalties for non-qualifying health plans for the entire 2014 year.  It is reasonable to presume that employers will take advantage of this waiver of penalties in order to gain another year before having to decide what they will do to comply with the new law.

ObamaCare needs the ‘young invincibles’ to enroll in large numbers in order to gain money with which to cover the costs of the older people, but the waiver of penalties for employers seems to fly in the face of that need.  Given the elimination of ‘pre-existing conditions’ that were often not covered without a significant waiting period before ObamaCare, there now is little or no urgency felt by younger people who are in good health to feel they need to enroll when the cost of health plans may be a strain on budgets, and when there will be another open enrollment period next year.  This applies to those who may be employed as well as those without access to an employers’ health plan.

A recent IRS ruling eliminated the ability of employers to contribute tax-free dollars to employees for health plan premiums by issuing its Notice 2013-54 reversing the long-standing rules on HRA and PRA plans.  That also appears to contradict the need for more enrollees since it will impact the actual costs of the employees where those plans have been in place.  With this change in place, employers are now only able to provide after-tax dollars to employees where, before, they were able to provide full value dollars.

There will no doubt be more changes so stay tuned to this blog for updates.