Debt should be priority in financial wellness programs

Do you know what your employees prioritize in their financial wellness program? Take a look at this article from Employee Benefits News about how more employees are placing debt as their number one priority in their financial wellness plans by Kathryn Mayer.

As research continues to pile up about employees’ dire financial state, many employers are left wondering how best to help their workers become financially stable.

Step one? Help them get rid of debt.

“Debt is the biggest [financial well-being] issue right now,” Meghan Murphy, director of thought leadership at Fidelity Investments, said Tuesday during the NAPA 401k Summit in Las Vegas. “Debt is becoming a way of life for all generations.”

There’s a “huge focus” for employers to take action right now in helping employees pay down student loans, Murphy said. It’s an issue plaguing everyone from millennials entering the workforce with massive amounts of debt to baby boomers who have their own student loans and are looking to finance their children’s education as well.

“Not only is [student loan repayment] great for retention, but it makes employees feel great,” she said.

Though student loan debt is garnering more attention in the workforce, it should not be the only area of focus, she said. Credit card debt, 401(k) loans and mortgage loans should also be priorities. In particular, many employers are beginning to put plans in place for ways to manage 401(k) loans by limiting the number of loans allowed or putting a waiting period in place for employees to get the money. “People are very attached to the concept that they can have the money if needed, but we have to find a way to stop that.

“A lot of education is needed in the workplace with debt — student loan debt, credit card debt … there’s not a single focus. If [employees] can pay down debt in general, [they] can save more. Even if employees can save a little bit, with whatever tools we can build and whatever tools and engagement employers offer, that would go a long way.”

Emergency savings also should be a big area of focus for financial wellness,” Murphy said. According to Fidelity’s research, employees do not think long term when it comes to financial goals; 27% of employees only think about the next few months when it comes to money. People who lack emergency savings are twice as likely to say they do not feel good about their finances, Murphy added.

“Most people don’t have an emergency savings account, and most people who do are afraid to spend it,” she said.

What the industry should do — and is starting to do — is to come up with ways to automate emergency savings, similar to automating retirement accounts savings.

Overall, employees’ financial state is pretty dire, Murphy said, citing Fidelity Investment research. In addition to meager savings, financial stress is wreaking havoc in the workplace. More than half of millennials say they’re less committed to work when experiencing money problems, and 28% say they are distracted at work because of it. Another 24% of workers say they avoid medical treatment due to financial problems.

“It’s all very cyclical,” Murphy said. “If you have a health issue, it can impact your money; it can impact your job. If you have a money issue, it can impact your health; it can impact your job. And it all impacts our happiness.”

The overall takeaway is financial wellness is needed in a big way.

“Employees really, really want help to make financial decisions and employers are starting to step up to take this role,” she said.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Mayer K. (2017 March 21). Debt should be priority in financial wellness programs [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitnews.com/news/debt-should-be-priority-in-financial-wellness-programs?tag=00000151-16d0-def7-a1db-97f03c840000


Tax Treatment of Fixed Indemnity Health Plans

Great article from our partner, United Benefit Advisors (UBA) by Danielle Capilla

A fixed indemnity health plan pays a specific amount of cash for certain health-related events (for example, $40 per office visit or $100 per hospital day). The amount paid is neither related to the medical expense incurred, nor coordinated with other health coverage. Further, a fixed indemnity health plan is considered an “excepted benefit.”

Under HIPAA, fixed dollar indemnity policies are excepted benefits if they are offered as “independent, non-coordinated benefits.” Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), excepted benefits are not subject to the ACA’s health insurance requirements or prohibitions (for example, annual and lifetime dollar limits, out-of-pocket limits, requiring individual and small-group policies to cover ten essential health benefits, etc.). This means that excepted benefit policies can exclude preexisting conditions, can have dollar limits, and do not legally have to guarantee renewal when the coverage is cancelled.

Further, under the ACA, excepted benefits are not minimum essential coverage so a large employer cannot comply with its employer shared responsibility obligations by offering only fixed indemnity coverage to its full-time employees.

Some examples of fixed indemnity health plans are AFLAC or similar coverage, or cancer insurance policies.

Recently, the IRS released a Memorandum on the tax treatment of benefits paid by fixed indemnity health plans that addresses two questions:

  1. Are payments to an employee under an employer-provided fixed indemnity health plan excludible from the employee’s income under Internal Revenue Code §105?
  2. Are payments to an employee under an employer-provided fixed indemnity health plan excludible from the employee’s income under Internal Revenue Code §105 if the payments are made by salary reduction through a §125 cafeteria plan?

See the original article Here.

Source:

Capilla D. (2017 March 9).Tax treatment of fixed indemnity health plans [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/tax-treatment-of-fixed-indemnity-health-plans


3 wise cybersecurity solutions for 2017

Is your company properly protected from cybersecurity threats? Find out how to protect yourself from online threats thanks to this great article from Prperty & Casualty 360 by Christopher Roach.

As businesses are spending millions of dollars on technology and software to protect themselves from cybercrimes, they may be missing a leading cause of cybercrime by not investing their money in training their own employees.

Human error is the leading cause of cybercrimes, according to BakerHostetler’s 2016 Data Security Incident Response Report. Some of the most prominent companies learned that all too well in the last calendar year, as costly mistakes by their employees left their business vulnerable to hacks.

In the spring of 2016, Snapchat was the victim of a phishing scam, where hackers posing as the CEO convinced an employee to email them the personal information — IRS Form W-2 data — of about 700 current and former employees of the organization. This included employee names, Social Security numbers, wages, stock-option gains and benefits. Shortly after the information was released, the employee realized that the original request was not legitimate. Everyone affected by the scam was quickly notified and offered free credit monitoring and identity theft insurance.

A human mistake was also the leading cause of a recent breach of Premier Healthcare, a multispecialty healthcare provider. After the billing department failed to secure its computers, a laptop computer was stolen from its headquarters. The electronic protected health information (ePHI) that could have been accessed from the single laptop could affect roughly 200,000 patients. The laptop was password-protected but not encrypted.

Employees reported the stolen laptop as soon as they realized it was missing, and the company took a number of steps to locate the laptop and identify the thief, including notifying patients and filing a police report. Fortunately, the laptop was returned and a comprehensive forensic analysis revealed the laptop had not been powered on since it went missing.

This year, Snapchat, Premier Healthcare and every other business big, medium or small, must invest in cybersecurity protection. They have to prepare their employees for the worst.

Here are three cybersecurity resolutions that offices need to make going forward:

1. Train employees with gamification.

In addition to sending around a list of dos and don’ts on how to prevent cyberattacks to employees, companies could get more creative when it comes to training their staff. Businesses should consider using gamification for training exercises to present real-life scenarios to employees.

One way to do this is by having “pretend” hackers try to obtain proprietary information from employees.  If an office doesn’t properly react, it could provide as a great lesson for everyone. If they react correctly they could win a prize. Every employee poses a risk, so training each individual is a critical element of cybersecurity.

2. Testing your response time.

Hackers are always going to be one step ahead due to the ever-changing cybersecurity landscape. In preparation, companies must have a cyber response plan in place and need to be ready to respond to multiple scenarios.

Employees need to understand how to identify risks and the appropriate individuals or departments where they should report findings. In addition, every employee should be taught best practices, like how to create stronger passwords or how to spot suspicious emails, so that they can use good judgement when online. If you suspect something, report it.

3. Protect your crown jewels.

The most important thing that business can do is identify their “crown jewels,” which are their data assets that are most critical to their organization and customers. Once the crown jewels have been identified, a company’s security team can establish targeted cybersecurity controls to insure this data is secure and recoverable.

While doing this, companies should make sure to conduct a penetration test to find out if their most important assets are vulnerable to hackers. This approach will save time and money. It’s not practical or cost effective to put the same level of protection on all data, so target the data that’s most important to the business.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Roach C. (2017 March 24). 3 wise cybersecurity solutions for 2017 [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.propertycasualty360.com/2017/03/24/3-wise-cybersecurity-solutions-for-2017?slreturn=1491841086&page_all=1


CMS Allows States to Extend Life of "Grandmothered" or Transitional Health Insurance Policies

Great article from our partner, United Benefit Advisors (UBA) by Danielle Capilla

On February 23, 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released its Insurance Standards Bulletin Series, in which it re-extended its transitional policy for non-grandfathered coverage in the small group and individual health insurance markets.

States may permit issuers that have renewed policies under the transitional policy continually since 2014 to renew such coverage for a policy year starting on or before October 1, 2018; however, any policies renewed under this transitional policy must not extend past December 31, 2018.

If permitted by applicable state authorities, health insurance issuers may choose to continue certain coverage that would otherwise be cancelled, and affected individuals and small businesses may choose to re-enroll in such coverage.

As background, CMS’ transitional policy was first announced in November 14, 2013; CMS had most recently extended the transitional policy on February 29, 2016, for an additional year for policy years beginning on or before October 1, 2017, provided that all policies end by December 31, 2017.

Policies subject to the transitional relief are not considered to be out of compliance with the ACA’s single risk pool requirement or the following Public Health Service Act (PHS Act) provisions:

  • Section 2701 – relating to fair health insurance premiums
  • Section 2702 – relating to guaranteed availability of coverage
  • Section 2703 – relating to guaranteed renewability of coverage
  • Section 2704 – relating to the prohibition of pre-existing condition exclusions or other discrimination based on health status, with respect to adults, except with respect to group coverage
  • Section 2705 – relating to the prohibition of discrimination against individual participants and beneficiaries based on health status, except with respect to group coverage
  • Section 2706 – relating to non-discrimination in health care
  • Section 2707 – relating to comprehensive health insurance coverage
  • Section 2709 – relating to coverage for individuals participating in approved clinical trials

However, issuers can choose to adopt some of or all these provisions in their renewed policies.

Practically speaking, grandmothering provides some small employers the option to maintain a pre-ACA health plan. Although not every state allows grandmothering of policies and not all insurance carriers offer the option in those states endorsing it, there are still some employers in the 35 states that allow grandmothering who are able to be composite rated (rates based on the health status of the group), which protects young, healthy groups in particular. Grandmothered groups with older, unhealthy populations could still move to community-rated ACA- compliant plans, which were generally less costly for them, giving all groups the flexibility to save money. The UBA Health Plan Survey finds that though this grandmothered group is shrinking (8.1% of all plans compared to 17% in 2015), these employers have helped to keep overall average increases in check. In fact, premium renewal rates (the comparison of similar plan rates year over year) have increased an average of 5.9% for all plans—up only slightly from last year’s 5.6% increase. Small groups who found temporary protection this year through grandmothering and the PACE Act (depending on their state) were a significant factor in overall cost mitigation.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Capilla D. (2017 March 21). CMS allows states to extend life of “grandmothered” or transitional health insurance policies[Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/cms-allows-states-to-extend-life-of-grandmothered-or-transitional-health-insurance-policies


Cindy's Mexican Favorites Will Fill You With Love

Our April Dish is brought to you by our very own Cindy Contreras

Cindy joins Hierl as our Administrative Assistant. With her degree in Management/Human Resources and Finance, she’s a perfect fit for our office and our clients.

At home, Cindy enjoys spending time with her husband and 3 children. She thoroughly enjoys watching her children grow and experience the wonders of life. Together, they enjoy outdoor activities like bicycling and camping, as well as indoor activities such as visiting the library and cozying up for a nice movie.

When it comes to eating out, Cindy enjoys a local favorite that features authentic Mexican food that’s truly made with love.

Mi Casa is small little restaurant owned by people who really care about making good food. My favorite meal is the camaron suizos. Shrimp sautéed with bacon, onions and mushrooms in a cheese sauce. So delicious!”

Need Directions?

At home, Cindy enjoys making Mexican comfort foods and one of her favorites is Arroz Con Leche (Mexican Rice Pudding). Be sure to check out the delicious recipe below!

 


Arroz Con Leche (Mexican Rice Pudding)

It’s a dessert that can be served after lunch or dinner, but will also make a great treat for your children during breakfast time. Give it a try! I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 cup uncooked riceIY0109_Arroz.jpg.rend.hgtvcom.616.462
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup raisins (optional)
  • 1 can condensed milk
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • lemon peel (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Let’s get started:

  1. In a medium saucepan, let rice soak in two and a half cups of water for 15-20 minutes. Add three cups more of water and then cinnamon stick. Simmer for 15 minutes covered.
  2. Add salt and raisins (optional), cook for another ten minutes or until the rice is tender. If you think it needs more time and water for the rice to get tender, just add one or two cups of water and let cook until soft.
  3. Mix the condensed milk, evaporated milk, cinnamon, lemon zest and vanilla and then add it to the rice. Verify sweetness and add more condensed milk if necessary. Cook uncovered on moderate heat for ten minutes, moving constantly to prevent rice pudding from sticking to the pot.
  4. Remove from heat; the consistency should be a little watery since the pudding will thicken as it cools. After five minutes, discard the lemon zest and cinnamon stick. Serve hot or cold sprinkled with ground cinnamon.

A dessert that can be served at any time of the day is a MUST! Can’t wait to try it out Cindy!


7 wellness benefits to maintain employees' zen

Check out the top trends that employees are looking for in an employer wellness programs by Page Elliott.

With open enrollment in the rearview mirror, many benefits professionals have been able to see which new wellness benefits have been a hit and which have been a miss. Increasingly, employees expect the benefits on offer to go beyond physical health and exercise and extend into a broader concept of wellness.

Meeting this appetite can benefit employers significantly — research has shown happier employees are considerably more productive.

The industry has answered the call in recent years and employers and brokers are bringing more and more benefits to the table that offer employees tools to better navigate their lives domestically, at work and in general.

Here are the top seven benefits to consider for upcoming enrollment periods that help look after employees personal well-being beyond the purely physical.

Legal protection

There are a multitude of reasons why employees often require costly legal representation: divorce, financial woes, neighborly disputes, property transactions, estate planning, etc. For most employees the costs and time required to attend to these issues are financially and emotionally draining.

The added stress created can cause a substantial loss in productivity in the workplace. As such, legal protection benefits are increasingly seen as an important step to keep a company’s workforce well and thriving.

According to a 2016 survey by Willis Towers Watson, 59 percent of employers now offer legal plans as a voluntary benefit.

Financial coaching

According to a study by Northwestern Mutual, some 58 percent of Americans believe their financial planning needs improvement and money remains the leading cause of stress in America today.

Offering financial coaching can be a bedrock voluntary benefit for employers given that it is central to protecting employees from falling into the kind of dire straits where other benefits like legal protection need to be used.

Financial coaching can help employees with everything from building a monthly budget that gets them back in the black, to planning their college fund or retirement saving more carefully. Financial coaching as an employee benefit can help employees thrive instead of just survive.

Identity theft resolution and monitoring

Identity theft is fast becoming the third certainty in life — according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, nearly 18 million people fell victim to identity theft in 2014 (that’s seven percent of U.S. adults in just one year).

Identity theft leads to financial and healthcare fraud that can be a crippling mess for victims to unravel and take many years (and many work hours!). The emotional effects of identity theft are well documented and easy to understand: anger, frustration and feelings of violation and vulnerability and the corresponding impact on wellness are clear.

Identity theft remediation and monitoring services can provide employees with critical resources to handle the frustrating complexities of rectifying fraud conducted using their own identities.

Health advocacy benefits

While a healthy chunk of all our paychecks goes towards paying for our health care insurance and services — a fiendishly complex and constantly evolving ecosystem — many Americans don’t understand the most basic terms.

Health advocacy has been a growing voluntary benefit over the last few years because it can help employees navigate a complex and exhausting system, offering both administrative and even clinical support. Health advocacy can reduce employee anxiety, improve overall wellness through better heath decisions and also help consumers get a better financial deal from their health care choices.

Meditation services

Research indicates that meditation has substantial benefits in terms of encouraging better attention, memory and emotional intelligence (and who couldn’t use some more of each on a daily basis?)

Mindfulness has been a top topic for HR pros for a long time, and many have made big strides in incorporating this concept into corporate culture. This has included encouraging employees to try extra-curricular relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation.

Some companies have gone as far as offering apps like Headspace to employees as a voluntary benefit at low or no cost.

Relationship counseling

The prevailing wisdom relating to employees’ personal problems has always been stay well out of it. However, more and more companies are seeing the upside of providing assistance to employees without getting directly involved in their personal lives.

One increasingly popular method for helping people manage the conflicts that exist in their lives outside of the office is to offer relationship counseling.  While this remains a rarity on most voluntary benefits portals, expect to see this popping up more and more in subsequent open enrollment periods.

Child care assistance

According to a survey by Care.com, over 70 percent of employees say the cost of childcare impacts their career decisions. Not wildly surprising given that nearly a third of families pay in excess of $20,000 per annum for child care — a figure that represents a shockingly high portion of the average U.S. household income of around $52,000.

Related: Are you ready for the millennial baby boom?

Offering dependent care deduction has been a popular benefit for a number of years and more and more parents are taking this up as part of their flex spending arrangements. Assistance can go beyond the tax break though and a growing number of companies are offering services that can make managing child care vastly easier, including child care resource and referral services that can help with back-up arrangements when daycare centers are closed.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Elliott P. (2017 March 21). 7 wellness benefits to maintain employees’ zen[Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/03/21/7-wellness-benefits-to-maintain-employees-zen?kw=7+wellness+benefits+to+maintain+employees%27+zen&et=editorial&bu=BenefitsPRO&cn=20170326&src=EMC-Email_editorial&pt=Benefits+Weekend+PRO&page_all=1


Potential Impact of Good Communication

Good things come to those who wait…. except when understanding your benefits. The sooner employees become educated on why they have unique benefits, the sooner they will put them to use!

Those who don’t understand benefits, don’t utilize them correctly. They are not good consumers of health care.” – Scott Smeaton, Hierl Executive Vice President.

It is important to understand your employee benefits not only for your own health reasons, but also so that you are able to recognize why your employer offers the unique benefits they do.

What differentiates Hierl and how they help effectively communicate benefits?

At Hierl, we look at each client as unique. What works best for one may not be ideal for another. It’s about really being able to understand the culture and provide different communication options such as presentations, visuals, emails, and website.

Hierl shines when it comes to giving employers/employees access to all forms of communication, specifically in the communication campaigns run throughout the year. By assessing the necessary points to communicate and then building quarterly and monthly campaigns around these objectives, Hierl brings unique, strategic solutions to explaining employee benefits. The evidence of communication strategies at work is apparent in the results gathered from clients.

One of the ways companies can measure the success of their program is to measure employee satisfaction. By measuring employee satisfaction after communication campaigns, findings show that the more regularly benefits are communicated, the higher employee satisfaction goes up!” – Scott Smeaton

scott smeaton

3 Key Points on Communicating Benefits

  1. Keep it simple- (no explanation needed!)
  2. Try different avenues- one person may prefer email while another prefers paper
  3. Communicate often- benefits communication should take place all year long

To download the full article click Here.


Financial stress hurts emotional, physical well-being of workers

Did you know that your emotional and physical well-being can take a hit when you are under financial stress?  Here is an interesting article from Employee Benefits Advisors about the correlation between financial stress and mental and physical health by Amanda Eisenberg.

Americans aren’t able to save for their financial goals, and that stress is affecting their emotional and physical well-being.

A new study by Guardian Life Insurance found that financial outlook is the most significant driver of working Americans’ overall well-being, constituting 40% of the insurance company’s Workforce Well-Being Index, and money is cited as the No. 1 source of stress for a majority of workers.

“Even among people working full-time with benefits, many still do not have access to adequate insurance coverage or retirement plans,” says Dave Mahder, vice president and chief marketing officer of Guardian’s Group and Worksite Markets business. “And few take advantage of the health and wellness programs available through their employers, which often contain a much broader menu of resources than workers realize.”

Millennials are one of the subsets of employees who do participate in benefits that can help alleviate financial stress, the survey found.

“Millennials want marketing to them,” says Gene Lanzoni, assistant vice president of thought leadership for Guardian Life. “It’s not enough these days to say, “This is someone like you,” to do with your benefit selection. That’s what the challenge is for millennials. It’s not enough of an engaging process for them.”

Half of millennials surveyed in Guardian Life’s “Fourth Annual Guardian Workplace Benefits Study” said they don’t have disability insurance, while a third have yet to sign up for a retirement plan.

They are not the only group of employees struggling to purchase voluntary benefits like disability and life insurance; single working parents are also feeling the heat.

One in three single working parents does not have a retirement plan, compared to 20% of the 1,439 workers surveyed. Similarly, one in four workers doesn’t have life insurance, and one in three workers doesn’t have disability insurance, according to the survey.

“Many of those working parents are struggling to balance work and personal life, and they may not be able to afford some of the protection products,” says Lanzoni. “Some of that discretionary income might not go toward paying a voluntary disability plan.”

To offset expenses, Americans are increasingly turning to debt, whether through loans or credit cards, to temporarily relieve their financial burdens.

Four in 10 Americans have car loans, 32% of workers are carrying a mortgage, 17% have student loans and 12% have home improvement debt, according to the study. Overall, 75% of Americans are carrying debt.

Non-mortgage debt — particularly auto and education loans — contributes to lower financial wellness; those carrying the most total debt, including mortgages and rent, report considerably lower overall well-being, according to Guardian Life’s report.

Employers can also help alleviate the burden by providing education to employees, among other services, says Lanzoni.

The survey found that employer-sponsored voluntary insurance products and college tuition or loan repayment programs help with financial wellness, as well as employee assistance programs that can identify financial, emotional and physical issues that lead to stress.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Eisenberg A. (2017 March 13). Financial stress hurts emotional, physical well-being of workers [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/financial-stress-hurts-emotional-physical-well-being-of-workers?feed=00000152-1387-d1cc-a5fa-7fffaf8f0000


What Your Employees Should Know About Social Security Benefits and Taxes

Great article from SHRM about the importance of educating your employees about their social security by Irene Saccoccio.

Social Security is with you throughout life’s journey, and we want to put your employees in control of their finances and future. With the tax filing deadline quickly approaching, everyone needs to make sure all their ducks are in a row before they file. Do your employees know that Social Security benefits may be taxable?

It’s true. About forty percent of people receiving Social Security benefits must pay taxes on some of these benefits, depending on the amount of their taxable income for the year. This includes all monthly retirement, survivor, and disability benefits. This may happen if your employees have other significant income in addition to their Social Security benefits.

The good news is that it’s easy to find out whether they must pay taxes on their benefits. All your employees need to look at their Social Security Benefit Statement (Form SSA-1099/1042S). An SSA-1099 is a tax form Social Security mails each year in January to people who receive Social Security benefits. It shows the total amount of benefits they received from Social Security in the previous year so they know how much Social Security income to report to IRS on their tax returns.

Your employees should automatically receive this form. If they don’t receive their Benefit Statement or misplaced it, no need to worry. A replacement SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S is typically available for the previous tax year after February 1. Even better news, Social Security has made requesting or replacing an annual Benefit Statement even easier. Now everyone has the ability to download it anytime and anywhere by using our online services.

Your employees can go to our my Social Security page, and select “Sign In or Create an Account.” Once they are logged in, they should select the “Replacement Documents” tab to obtain a replacement 1099 or 1042S benefit statement. Your employees can also use their personal my Social Security account to keep track of their earnings each year, manage their benefits, and more.

Your employees can also obtain a replacement benefit statement by calling us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), or contacting their local Social Security Office. People living outside of the United States, need to contact their nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Handling tax season is all about what you know. Encourage your employees not to wait. They should open a personal my Social Security account today. In addition to getting a SSA-1099 or 1042S, there are many other tools like their Social Security Statement or benefit verification letter that can help them today. Just another way in which Social Security helps them secure today and tomorrow.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Saccoccio I. (2017 March 24). What your employees should know about social security benefits and taxes [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://blog.shrm.org/blog/what-your-employees-should-know-about-social-security-benefits-and-taxes


ACA repeal bill nixed: What’s next for healthcare reform, employers?

With the fall of the AHCA find out what is next for employers in terms of healthcare from the great article at HR Morning by Christian Schappel.

The Republican’s best attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to date has been axed. Where does that leave employers, and what can they expect next? 

For starters, it leaves employers with the ACA and everything that comes with it … the employer mandatethe reporting requirements … the whole enchilada.

In other words, any organizations that relaxed their ACA compliance efforts — believing the Republican’s American Health Care Act would repeal and replace Obamacare — could be exposing themselves to non-compliance penalties.

The more complicated question is: What happens next?

A piecemeal approach?

With this appearing to be the GOP’s best shot at repealing and replacing Obamacare (or at least parts of it) in one stroke, and the party failing to push its legislation through Congress, President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) appear resigned to the fact that the ACA will remain in place indefinitely.

“We’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future,” Ryan said after announcing the GOP bill would not be voted on in the House.

Trump has even indicated that after this loss for the GOP, he wants the party to focus on other issues, like tax reform.

But that doesn’t mean health reform will be on the back burner.

It now appears that Republicans’ best course of action to implement reform changes would be to attempt to “fix” parts of the ACA that are deemed to not be working. And it could do that by including small healthcare provisions in other pieces of legislation, like future tax reform bills.

Trump and his fellow Republicans could also seek to offer concessions to Democrats in future legislation as a means to get members of the left to agree to include certain provisions of the American Health Care Act in future bills.

Example, Republicans are still expected to push hard for a rollback of the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid, and members of the GOP could seek to include rollback provisions in future tax reform legislation in exchange for proposing a tax reform plan Democrats would find more palatable.

How did we get here?

So why did the American Health Care Act fail, despite Republicans controlling the House, Senate and White House?

The answer starts with the fact that the GOP didn’t have the 60 seats in the Senate to avoid a filibuster by the Democrats. In other words, despite being the majority party, it didn’t have enough votes to pass a broad ACA repeal bill outright.

As a result, Senate Republicans had to use a process known as reconciliation to attempt to reshape the ACA. Reconciliation is a process that allows for the passage of budget bills with 51 votes instead of 60. So the GOP could vote on budgetary pieces of the health law, without giving the Democrats a chance to filibuster.

The problem for Republicans was reconciliation severely limited the extent to which they could reshape the law — and it’s a big reason the why American Health Care Act looked, at least to some, like “Obamacare Lite.”

Ultimately, what caused Trump and Ryan to decide to pull the bill before the House had a chance to vote on it was that so many House Republicans voiced displeasure with the bill and said they wouldn’t vote for it.

Specifically, here are some of what conservatives didn’t like about the American Health Care Act:

  • it largely left a lot of the ACA’s “entitlements” intact — like government aid for purchasing insurance
  • it didn’t do enough to curtail the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid
  • too many of the ACA’s insurance coverage mandates would remain in place
  • the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the bill would result in some 24 million Americans losing insurance within the next decade, and
  • it didn’t do enough to drive down the cost of insurance coverage in general.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Schappel C. (2017 March 29). ACA repeal bill nixed: what’s next for healthcare reform, employers? [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.hrmorning.com/aca-repeal-bill-nixed-whats-next-for-healthcare-reform/