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Health care reforms: Which parts take effect this year?

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in Employee Benefits Program,Employment Background Check,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

It’s no wonder that some provisions of the recently enacted Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act flew under the media radar that focused on the politics of health care reform. After all, the law is more than 2,000 pages long.

Although many of the biggest changes in the new health care law won’t take effect until 2014, others kick in this year. These changes mostly affect insurers and the benefits they must offer. It’ll be up to you to understand (and explain) these changes to employees.

Get up to speed on your new responsibilities by signing up for our special webinar, Health Care Reform Compliance Workshop: Your Questions Answered

Among the health insurance changes to expect in 2010:

Health insurance benefits and W-2s

Beginning in the 2011 tax year, employers will be required to report the “aggregate cost” of “applicable employer-sponsored coverage” on an employee's W-2. That includes the value of any medical, dental and vision coverage you may pay for.

This will become much more relevant in 2018, when people with so-called high-cost “Cadillac” plans will have to start paying a hefty tax on it.

Note: It’s generally a good idea to tell employees how much you contribute to the cost of employee benefits like health insurance. It helps them understand the total value of benefits as an overall part of their compensation. Now Uncle Sam is requiring it.

Breastfeeding at work

Effective immediately, employers with 50 or more employees must provide breastfeeding workers with “reasonable break time” and a private, non-bathroom place to express breast milk during the workday, up until the child’s first birthday. Employers are not required to pay for time spent expressing milk.

Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from this rule if complying would cause “undue hardship.”

Women’s groups have long sought break time for breastfeeding and pumping, and many states already have similar laws on the book. Employers in states that already have such laws must comply with either the state or federal law, whichever is most generous to employees.

Background checks for health care workers

Starting this year, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services must develop a national system for conducting criminal background checks of prospective health care workers who would deal directly with patients in long-term care facilities or private homes. This is one of a suite of changes aimed at protecting seniors in nursing homes.

The Department of Health and Human Services will work with state agencies to implement the background check program, a process that could take up to a year.

Advice: If you’re in the health care industry, be alert for news that the background check system is coming online in your state.

Learn (in plain English!) the specific steps employers of all sizes need to take to comply with these regulations before they are fully enforced. Register now for the Health Care Reform Compliance Workshop

Dependent Coverage

All health plans must maintain dependent coverage for insured employees’ children until they turn age 26. This rule takes effect in September. What that means for HR: Get ready to re-enroll many young people who left their parents’ family coverage within the past few years. Your insurance carrier will provide the paperwork.

High-Risk Insurance Pool

A high-risk insurance pool will be set up this summer to provide affordable coverage for uninsured people with pre-existing conditions. This won’t affect you if you already provide insurance. If you don’t, you may get questions from workers seeking coverage. Advice: Refer them to your state’s insurance commission.

Retiree Drug Coverage

Immediately, large employers that pay for retiree drug coverage must declare for accounting purposes whether they intend to keep doing so. Your firm’s tax accountants will have details as soon as the IRS sets the final rules.

Also beginning this year, new rules limit how and for whom insurance companies can deny coverage. The new law prohibits insurers from denying coverage to children based on pre-existing conditions, putting lifetime dollar limits on coverage and canceling coverage retroactively except in cases of fraud.

Note: Some analysts say those coverage limits could lead insurance companies to raise premiums in coming years.

If you make any decisions on employee health care at your organization, the Health Care Reform Compliance webinar is a great primer on your new duties.

You’ll gain a better understanding of the new law and implications for how to offer … maintain … and manage your employees’ health benefits. You’ll walk away with specific recommendations on ways to address these reforms and prepare for the coming changes, while discussing topics such as:
  • Automatic enrollment in health plans. Which employers are required to offer coverage? At what levels? What penalties could you face?
  • Benefit design changes required in dependent eligibility, preventive care, lifetime and annual limits, and pre-existing condition exclusions.
  • New reporting and disclosure requirements for employers.
  • And much more...
Register for this interactive webinar now...

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