Don’t count on health care reform just going away.
According to Brad Pricer, human resources process leader at CUNA Mutual Group, it’s unlikely that the U.S. Supreme Court will simply toss out the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act completely.
“One of the big misperceptions about the upcoming Supreme Court decision is that credit unions think they don’t need to do anything as health care reform will probably just go away,” said Pricer. “I’ve read a lot of the arguments made to the court, and based on the questions the justices have asked, they seem hesitant to reach that far in terms of tossing the entire legislation out.”
At issue has been the constitutionality of the individual mandates and whether it is so intertwined and integral to the whole act that it essentially dismantles the entire legislation.
“It’s an election year, and personally I don’t think the court will strike the entire legislation down. It may be kicked back to Congress. No one really knows. In the meantime, all these provisions, some of which there are requirements are still on the table and those that are coming up don’t necessarily go away. There’s a danger in just assuming you won’t have to deal with it going forward,” said Pricer.
A better strategy, Pricer said would be for credit unions to ensure they are in compliance with those requirements in effect now. For example, a grandfathering provision allows certain plans in effect on the reform act's enactment date to avoid many of the new rules, and it is important not only to understand what makes a plan grandfathered but also to distinguish between those provisions that are and are not applicable to grandfathered plans.
“Ask the questions, don’t assume it’s just being handled by your carrier or that you have no choice in the process,” said Pricer. “The good news is that 2012 is a good year for a Supreme Court decision because as far as requirements this year, there’s not a lot coming into play in 2012.”
One issue on the table for larger credit unions with 250 or more employees is tracking the aggregate cost of employer-sponsored group health coverage for plan year 2012 on W2s.
“So make sure whoever is preparing your W2s has that set up ready to report,” said Pricer, who used it as just one example of a requirement that has nothing to do with waiting for a decision from the court. “There’s a lot of confusion out there about everything from what are the requirements, and what applies to me to what’s coming up?”
Another question being posed has been whether credit unions even need to offer health care coverage going forward because the penalty fee for not offering coverage in many cases seems more cost effective. But Pricer said simply crunching the numbers doesn’t give a complete picture.
“The analysis of whether or not to offer coverage has to include employer of choice strategies,” said Pricer. “If credit unions are going to compete for top talent, offering a rich coverage plan may be a factor in attracting and retaining that talent. The analysis has to include questions of what your credit union is trying to accomplish though offering benefits in the first place? Is it part of a bigger strategy for the success of the credit union? If you are just looking at numbers, then a lot of the issue is being missed.”
He added that smaller credit unions with 25 employees or less can actually benefit from the small business tax credit, which provides incentives not to drop health care coverage.
“The misperception is that because it’s a tax credit, credit unions aren’t eligible. but that’s not true,” said Pricer. “In many cases there’s money being left on the table because those small credit unions that qualify can apply for it and get reimbursed.”