As officials scramble to meet requirements set forth in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, some deadlines have already been extended to allow insurers and employers more time to comply with the sweeping changes. Other reform measures have been scaled back or dropped completely, as they proved too difficult to implement.
One major component of the legislation, which requires companies with 50 or more full-time workers to provide health insurance for employees, has been pushed back an entire year to 2015. The change comes in response to the reported difficulty faced by many employers in meeting the looming deadline. However, the deadline shift may also be a response to rumored economic troubles, as many companies are said to be reducing work hours or laying off workers in an attempt skirt the law by dropping below the 50 full-time employees mark.
Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have elected to set up their own state-run insurance exchanges, and are scheduled to open for enrollment on October 1. These exchanges will provide the opportunity for uninsured individuals to enroll in a health insurance plan, with government subsidies to help cover the cost for those without access to an employer-sponsored plan who earn between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty line. With the deadline looming, officials have discovered that they may not have the resources needed to implement all of the new regulations at once, and are instead opting to phase in some measures gradually.
Previously the administration suggested the exchanges must verify applicants’ income status and inability to receive employer-sponsored benefits, but regulations recently released by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have given the state-run exchanges more time to fall into compliance. Random – rather than mandatory – checks on employer-based insurance status will now begin in 2015. Income verification will be performed randomly during 2014. States which elected to use the federal exchange will see no delay in eligibility checks.
Other measures which have been scaled back or delayed include star quality ratings for insurance plans, the ability for small-business employees to access a choice of insurance plans, and the requirement that state Medicaid offices send out notifications to individuals who are eligible for federal assistance.
One key component of the law, the individual mandate which requires almost all Americans to purchase health insurance coverage by Jan. 1, 2014, continues to hang in the balance. All enrollment and subsidy systems must be in place before individuals can be required to purchase insurance.
As House Republicans call the implementation of Obamacare a “train wreck”, many have speculated that the individual mandate deadline may need to be delayed. Meanwhile, HHS insists that the exchanges will be up and running by October 1.
Steve Amante is the President and CEO of Amante & Associates Insurance Solutions, Inc. To learn more about Healthcare Reform contact Steve Amante or Frank Faldmo the firm’s Employee Benefits Advisor at (951) 676-8800 or visit: www.amanteandassociates.com