The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is alive and well, and according to government agencies, ready to get rolling in only a matter of months.
Open enrollment for state and federal exchanges (also known as insurance marketplaces) is set to begin on October 1, 2013. But there is a lot of confusion among employers, and this is where PPACA will have the most financial impact. The uncertainty reaches from the C-suite to hourly employees to the general public. The source of confusion? It’s the lack of clear and definitive guidance that will allow businesses to properly plan and make the required modifications to comply with changes in the law. As a result, employers are anxious, and the level of concern has reached a boiling point.
Furthermore, the lack of knowledge about PPACA is also leading to a lack of confidence, increased negativity and a lot of rumors. A new survey conducted by Gallup showed small-business owners’ confidence (or lack thereof) in the law. Of the 603 small-business owners surveyed:
- 48% believe healthcare reform will be bad for their business
- 9% said it will be better for them
- 52% believe it will reduce the quality of healthcare provided
- 5% said that it will raise costs
These are confusing times across the board. Congressional Republicans are still voting to repeal PPACA in its entirety. A Kaiser poll shows that Americans generally have a negative perception of the law. 40% said they have an unfavorable view of the law compared to 35% who favor it. 42% of Americans are unaware that PPACA is still law and is currently being implemented; 12% believe the law has already been repealed by Congress, and 7% believe it has been overturned by the Supreme Court.
With the perception of the healthcare reform landscape in flux, the current concern is that employers won’t be ready for 2014. Employers are asking:
- Will exchanges be ready and what will they look like?
- How many employees will be eligible?
- Are we going to be able to properly count employee hours without disrupting business?
- How do we proceed?
- What’s the penalty for non-participation?
There seem to be as many questions as there are answers. However, employers cannot simply look the other way. Employers must take healthcare reform seriously and be proactive. Proper planning is required now.
The potential liability is too great if implementation is not addressed. Even without a complete set of guidelines, employers need to move forward. The first step is to get a firm grasp on worst case scenarios. Next, understand potential penalties and have a plan in place to avoid them. Put employee education on the timeline as well.
Whether it feels like it or not, we are in the early stages of decision-making time. The best plan moving forward is to keep on top of healthcare reform changes and updates, which are happening on a daily basis. And align your organization with PPACA experts to make sure you are informed and ready.
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