Thursday, May 16. 2013
While many companies say they will either definitely or probably won't alter the way they offer health insurance to their employees under the Affordable Care Act, the fact remains that some are at least considering moving away from the practice.
In all, three in 10 employers nationwide say that they are currently undecided about the way in which they will continue to cover full-time employees' health insurance costs, according to a new study from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans. That's down from 53 percent in 2012, and most of the change came as a result of more companies determining that they definitely will continue to cover workers.
One-quarter say they're very likely to do so, and 4 percent say they're at least somewhat likely, the report said. In addition, 2 percent are somewhat unlikely and 1 percent is very unlikely to continue doing so. Another 1 percent has decided they definitely will not.
Even the small percentage who are leaning toward discontinuing this type of coverage, or have decided to do so, can potentially affect large amounts of people across the country, leaving them to fend for themselves when it comes to finding and purchasing affordable insurance going forward.
The IRS has released contribution and deductible limits for 2014 via Revenue Procedure 2013-25. For calendar year 2014, the annual contribution limitation for an individual with self-only coverage under a high deductible health plan is $3,300. The family limit is $6,550.
For calendar year 2014, a 'high deductible health plan' is defined as a health plan with an annual deductible that is not less than $1,250 for self-only coverage or $2,500 for family coverage, and the annual out-of-pocket expenses (deductibles, co-payments, and other amounts, but not premiums) do not exceed $6,350 for self-only coverage or $12,700 for family coverage.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires that in-network EHB out-of-pocket expenses for non-grandfathered plans not exceed out-of-pocket (OOP) limits set by the IRS for high deductible health plans (HDHPs). Non-grandfathered plans that cover essential health benefits (EHBs) must limit member out-of-pocket expenses for EHBs (in-network) to $6,350 for individual plans and $12,700 for family plans. This applies to plan years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2014.
The problem lately with high deductible health plans (HDHPs) is that the government has capped the deductibles and OOP allowing only small increases each year. The high deductible plans of 1997 when the HSA started, have not been able to keep pace with healthcare costs.
Nowadays it's common for people to seek plans with higher annual out-of-pocket expenses than an HSA plan in order to save money on lower premiums. This will mean large rate hikes when these plans 'reset' to become Qualified Health Plans (QHP) on Jan. 1, 2014. For many people this will cause plan premiums to sky rocket. A family plan with a $20,000 annual out-of-pocket could see premiums triple Jan. 1, 2014. The premium would double if that plan had to become compliant with the new IRS limits today.
There is a little known loophole allowing many to postpone the QHP reset until December 2014. "This could mean thousands in savings...the response has been overwhelming and we have already helped over 1800 families plan properly since late April", says James W. Barnes, CFP, Executive Vice President at JLBG Health. "It's really a win win for the policyholder, they can move to a QHP in January, or stay on their current plan with no change in rates or benefits until December 2014, the choice is theirs."
Wednesday, May 15. 2013
Hundreds of thousands of people nationwide who classify themselves as Native Americans on official government documents will have to pay substantial fines under the Affordable Care Act unless they can provide adequate proof of their heritage.
These citizens will be required to either buy their own health insurance policies or pay fines of nearly $700 to the IRS annually unless they can prove themselves to have enough Native American ancestry to qualify for one of the exemptions under the ACA, according to a report from the Associated Press. This may leave many people who self-identify as Native Americans to deal with significant issues going forward, as more than 100 tribes across the country are recognized by the states in which they reside, but not the federal government.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says it is aware of the potential problem, which could affect more than 480,000 people nationwide, but cannot do anything without approval from Congress, the report said.
Many Americans may be adversely affected by the ACA's various mandates, and it's up to each one to determine how the law will affect them personally.
Tuesday, May 14. 2013
Many experts have speculated about just how well the Affordable Care Act's coverage mandates will be received by small business owners nationwide, and new data shows that almost half are not in favor of it.
In a recent poll, 48 percent said that they feel the law will have a negative impact on their businesses, and another nearly two in five percent felt as though it would have no impact, according to Gallup. Only 9 percent felt as though it would be good for their companies. In addition, more than half also thought that the law would reduce the quality of the healthcare they and their employees would receive, even as slightly more than that expected far at least slightly costs.
More than two in five also said that the law would lead them to scale back or entirely halt plans to hire new employees, while slightly fewer said that it would affect their abilities to grow their businesses, the report said. About one-quarter also said they considered dropping health insurance for their workers.
This might leave workers with far fewer options for obtaining the health insurance they and their families may need in their everyday lives.
Monday, May 13. 2013
While millions of Americans are supposed to be able to enjoy numerous benefits as a result of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act next year, many problems related to even alerting consumers to the exchanges and helping them understand them still linger.
Many experts believe that the federal government and state entities have generally not done a very good job of getting the word out about the ACA's health insurance exchanges, which are intended to help millions of Americans find cost-effective healthcare policies that work for them, according to a report from KHI News Services. However, significant efforts are now underway, with millions of federal dollars behind them, to spread awareness of the marketplaces and how consumers can and should get involved.
"It's going to create new opportunities for people who don't have any insurance at all," Andy Corbin, chief executive of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas, told the news agency. "And for those people who don't make much money but who have had insurance, it may save them some dollars."
Consumers will need to carefully consider their obligations under the ACA, as they will be mandated to have some sort of coverage. Taking costs into account will likely be vital to their financial futures and health.