September 8, 2016
They say the more things change, the more they remain the same. Case in point: the reformation of the U.S. healthcare system under the banner of the Affordable Care Act.
When the new laws were first implemented, confusion abounded. Thousands of pages of legislation were written, leaving employers, their workforces and even some benefits professionals unsure of how to proceed. Today, most companies have adapted to the reality of reform, and millions of additional Americans now have access to health insurance.
Still, confusion persists when it comes to certain aspects of healthcare reform — most specifically, Internal Revenue Service reporting requirements and the 2020 implementation of the “Cadillac tax,” a 40 percent excise tax on high-cost health insurance plans.
New IRS reporting requirements: Cutting things close
First, let’s take a look at what the 2016 Aflac WorkForces Report revealed about new IRS reporting requirements. While nearly half of the 1,500 employers surveyed as part of Aflac’s study said they were well-prepared to comply with the reporting requirements, the majority — 52 percent — said they were just somewhat or not very well-prepared.
What’s most concerning about these figures is that the Aflac survey was conducted in January and February of this year. Companies with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees were required to provide information about their health care coverage to employees by March 16, and to the IRS no later than June 30. Talk about cutting things close!
SOS: Private health exchanges, third-party administrators and insurance experts
Given the lack of understanding surrounding IRS reporting, perhaps it’s no surprise that many companies are looking to private health exchanges and multiline platforms to ease their burdens. By doing so, they can relieve themselves of much of the hard work of benefits administration, such as paperwork and coordinating between multiple insurance carriers.
Just 6 percent of employers moved their health insurance benefits to private exchanges in 2014 and 2015, but the number jumped to 16 percent this year. What’s more, the report found that few employers currently outsource benefits information, but interest is high: 68 percent are interested in outsourcing at least one service.
Employers also have insurance agents and brokers on speed dial, with 70 percent of companies using a broker or benefits consultant to help determine their benefits options. Large companies and employers in metropolitan areas are more likely to use brokers or benefits consultants than small companies with fewer than 50 employees or those located in rural areas.