In the past, the process of assessing a company’s health care options was a once-a-year endeavor for many businesses. However, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has transformed that process into one that now spans the full calendar year. As a result, it has become increasingly important for companies to more closely review their medical benefits plan and conduct a comprehensive review of their current offerings and available options on at least an annual basis.
Staying on Top of the Law
For starters, the ACA is a law that is still in the process of being fully rolled out, and the start of each year brings new requirements and opportunities that directly impact an employer’s bottom line. In 2016, for example, employers with at least 50 full-time employees became subject to the employer mandate for the first time and will now be required to offer insurance coverage to all full-time employees. Additionally, all applicable large employers are now required to report the type and cost of coverage they offer their employees to the IRS. Beginning in 2017, states will be able to permit large employers to purchase coverage through the health insurance exchanges.
Additionally, while predicted drastic rises in health care costs have failed to materialize — annual premiums rose by only 4 percent in 2015 — it is still too early to discount significant hikes as a possibility. The health care market is a fragile one, and there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the future of the ACA, especially with a presidential election on the horizon. Therefore, it is important for companies to pay attention to the news surrounding this issue and be mindful of the ways the market is reacting. Employers who neglect the changing landscape of the health care market are putting themselves at great risk.
Get Your Workforce Involved
In conducting annual reviews of health care options, it is crucial not to forget about the group of people these decisions will impact the most: your employees. While staff members will certainly be disappointed by any cuts in benefits or increases in costs, you can be sure that resentment will only be worse if they feel like these decisions were made without their input. Listening to your employees — and including them in the process — is an excellent way to give them a sense of ownership and control over an area that greatly impacts their lives.
Just how a company goes about eliciting feedback from employees often depends on the broader culture of the workplace. While anonymous surveys can be instructive, a system that emphasizes open communication and transparency is more likely to yield honest feedback and instill in employees a feeling that their employer actually cares about what they think. While town hall meetings can certainly generate some discussion, not every employee will feel comfortable speaking about their concerns in front of a large crowd. Consider scheduling one-on-one meetings with all your employees, or folding this into an already existing process, such as making it part of annual performance reviews. Just be sure to respect employees’ privacy when discussing their thoughts on the benefits package.
Most importantly, however this process is handled, it should be done in a way that will encourage employees to speak freely, knowing that their employer views the process as one buoyed by constructive feedback rather than employee complaints.
This content is provided solely for informational purposes. It is not intended as and does not constitute legal advice. The information contained herein should not be relied upon or used as a substitute for consultation with legal, accounting, tax and/or other professional advisers.
Avi Sinensky is an attorney at Meltzer, Lippe, Goldstein & Breitstone LLP in New York, where his practice focuses on corporate and employee benefits law. He advises clients on strategies to overcome Affordable Care Act challenges and to capitalize on related opportunities.