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VOL. 129 | NO. 85 | Thursday, May 1, 2014

Employers Get Affordable Care Act Rundown

By Don Wade

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In a world made more complicated for everyone by the Affordable Care Act, the title of a Wednesday morning seminar at the Crescent Club had to be attractive:

Tim Finnell, president of Group Benefits LLC and a certified health care reform specialist, discussed ways employers can take action in coordination with health care reform.

(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

“Employee Benefits and Health Care Reform: An Opportunity in Disguise.”

Presented by Tim Finnell, president of Group Benefits LLC, who is a certified health care reform specialist, the seminar offered a quick tour of ways employers might take some positive action steps in coordination with health care reform mandates that can be daunting.

One such step: company wellness programs.

“For 30 years, I’ve encouraged employers to implement wellness programs,” Finnell said.

Joe Clark, a vice president with Bravo Wellness, also served as a presenter during the program and one of the first statistics he offered was a big one: chronic diseases related to lifestyle account for 75 percent of national medical costs.

For employers, then, the opportunity lies in wellness programs that offer employees incentives for healthful living – not using tobacco, and not falling on the wrong side of body mass index measurements, and blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose screenings.

One audience member asked just how a company would make sure an employee that identifies as a non-smoker would be verified as such.

“We’re not the tobacco police,” Clark said. “But the ACA says that on an annual basis there needs to be an opportunity to be screened.”

Bravo is in the business of helping companies administer their wellness programs. But whether a company contracts with an outside source or handles the duties itself, the concept of a wellness program is the same: helping employees to healthier lifestyles and documenting which employees are low-risk from a health perspective and which ones are high-risk.

“People with bad lifestyles will be rewarding people with healthy lifestyles” in terms of incentives and lower contribution costs, Finnell said, and thereby also assisting the employer’s efforts to hold health care costs down.

Finnell also covered private exchanges, which allow employers to basically act as a “cafeteria” and provide employees a varied menu of health care options by giving the employee a set amount each month and allowing the employee to pick what parts of the overall health care options he wants to use. For example, if $400 was provided each month, the employee might spend $350 on the standard health care plan and then decide among vision and dental coverage, or life insurance and liability, for how to spend the other $50 defined contribution per month.

Finnell then explained employers’ reporting requirements, which vary depending on the number of employees. But important to all employers, Finnell said, is this fact: The Department of Labor has a stated goal to audit all employer health care plans over the next five years and has hired more than 16,000 additional auditors to get the job done. Companies found in violation of the ACA face stiff penalties.

“The Department of Labor is serious,” Finnell said. “And President Obama is serious about compliance.”

PROPERTY SALES 105 193 8,028
MORTGAGES 120 239 9,024
BUILDING PERMITS 192 445 17,512
BANKRUPTCIES 27 69 5,228