As Legal Content Director at Zywave, part of my job for the last four years has been to answer questions about the Affordable Care Act. A lot of questions. Although some of the themes have remained consistent, the nature of the questions has changed over the course of those four years since the ACA was enacted.
It makes sense: the many varied provisions of the ACA have been implemented over the course of several years (with more to come). This means that employers need to focus first on the task at hand – the rules that are taking effect next. Once an employer has a plan in place for compliance with a particular rule, that issue fades in importance while another one takes its place. It’s the unknown that causes the most worry; once the employer’s plan is implemented and some experience is gained, the employer gradually becomes more comfortable with following that particular rule.
This compliance process is illustrated by the results of our most recent health care reform survey of employers. Of the more than 2,000 employers who participated in the survey earlier this year, two-thirds are confident that they are in compliance with the provisions of the law that are already in effect. That’s a 21-point gain from last year. Most employers (50 percent) consider themselves only somewhat prepared for future requirements, with nearly the same number (45 percent) feeling very prepared and five percent feeling unprepared for future compliance.
The issues causing the most concern for employers in administering health care reform changes have evolved over the last few years as well. This year, most employers are concerned about health plan fees (49 percent) and premium rating changes (also 49 percent). About one-third of respondents (34 percent) are concerned about reporting, disclosure and notification requirements and a similar number (31 percent) are worried about implementing cost-sharing limits.
The survey results show a comparison of employer concerns over a three-year period. One of the biggest changes is that offering health coverage to full-time employees is only a major concern for 12 percent of employers surveyed this year; for the prior two years it was an issue for close to 60 percent of employers. This decrease is a striking example of the evolution of the ACA’s impact on employers. As more guidance is issued, and employers become familiar with the requirements and make and implement their plans, deciding whether and how to offer coverage to full-time employees becomes a more manageable task.
The broker’s role in supporting employers
That doesn’t mean employers won’t still have questions. And when asked to list their own concerns, many employers told us they are worried that the existing regulations might change again, requiring them to relearn everything and change their plans.
Whether your clients’ questions are about already existing ACA rules, provisions that will take effect in 2018 or changes to any of those requirements, brokers will continue to have an important role in helping employers understand the ACA and their obligations. This role is also highlighted in the survey results. When they have a question about the ACA, 78 percent of employers surveyed said they call or email their broker for answers.
As the ACA continues to evolve and expectations and requirements for employers continue to change, you can be a valuable resource for your clients and prospects.