Despite all the focus on repeal and replace legislation, the ACA remains the law of the land, with its numerous compliance requirements. The excise tax on high-cost health plans has been delayed until 2020 but needs to stay on the radar. More immediate issues include the new SBC template and preventive services additions for 2018, as well as refining employer shared responsibility reporting. Employer action steps are required, but should be mostly straightforward.
The new SBC template must be used beginning on the first day of the first open enrollment period that begins on or after April 1, 2017, or for plan years beginning on or after that date. Happily, the new template is shorter.
There are already new preventive services items to add for the 2018 plan year, and others may pop up throughout 2017. Employers will want to discuss with their carrier and plan administrator partners the process for implementing these new mandated services.
While we are in our third year under employer shared responsibility requirements relating to offers of coverage to employees working 30 or more hours per week, employers are still refining plan operations around eligibility and strategizing improvements to the associated reporting obligation. Continual diligence remains necessary due to the complexity of the rules and challenges faced when responding to IRS error reports. Employers should also be prepared to respond to IRS communications regarding ESR assessments, which could come later this year. Employer advocacy groups continue to push regulators for reporting simplification, but we’re not anticipating relief for the 2017 reporting year.
Then there’s the excise tax. While we can hope that the tax goes away before it is ever implemented, we certainly can’t count on it. Current legislative proposals all retain the tax, even if the effective date is further delayed. Maintaining a strategy to reduce health plan costs and associated liability for the excise tax as much as possible must remain a priority given the significant potential budget impact on employers.
We’ll have to wait and see if Congress makes changes to the ACA. While we wait, the Trump Administration may proceed with regulatory changes. However, note that modification of final rules requires agencies to re-start the regulatory process. In the meantime, the ACA remains the law and employers should not be lulled into disregarding their compliance obligations.