Despite the White House's blog post last weekdelaying until 2015 the major employer mandate provisions of the Affordable Care Act, employers are still scrambling to keep employee health benefits in compliance with various federal regulations.
"There are still several ACA mandates, putting this piece aside, that go into effect for 2014 that need to be addressed in 2013," says Jolie Havens, a partner in the Vorys Columbus office practicing health care and employee benefits. Havens' column in the May 2013 issue of Columbus CEO outlined a number of potential strategies for those companies with 50+ full time employees that will be affected by the ACA employer mandate.
By 2014, employers still need to comply with ACA rules regarding benefit waiting periods (90 days, maximum), coverage of clinical trials and pre-existing condition eliminations.
"Those ACA compliance issues don't even touch the fact that we've got a big HIPAA deadline coming up in September (and) we recently got the Supreme Court's decision on DOMA, which will impact among other things, employee benefit plans," says Havens.
September is the deadline for health plans to comply with Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act modifications to HIPAA's privacy and enforcement Rules. HITECH strengthens HIPAA privacy and standardization rules while allowing for stronger HIPAA enforcement.
Though HIPAA/HITECH applies to health plans rather than employers, a lot of responsibility falls to employers who sponsor group plans, says Havens. In addition, multi-state employers are beginning to consider the tax ramifications of the DOMA ruling.
"This is not blowing smoke on the part of employers, this really is quite complex," says Havens. She and her colleagues at Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease have reached out to clients with a preliminary assessment of the delay, advised them that additional guidance is forthcoming, and offered encouragement to help them through the coming months of compliance work.
"Employers would be well served to keep key players internally engaged, keep their advisors close by and to keep moving down that path towards compliance," says Havens. "Because even with this additional year, there's still a lot to be accomplished."