A couple of months ago, we joined with Aflac Inc. (NYSE:AFL) to run a webinar on the possible effects of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) on the commercial health insurance community.
Webinar attendees submitted 44 questions about topics more substantive than “How do I find a recording of the webinar?” (The answer to that question: Please click here. Fill out a registration form and you will get access to the webinar archive.)
Recently, we also answered questions about topics such as, “How do you count employees?” and “Why does the government think it can handle exchange enrollment and ordinary Medicare Advantage enrollment at the same time?”
This week, we take on questions about matters such as why employers would bother to keep their plans and how much brokers might get paid.
As we said last week, the grim reality is that, in many cases, we’re basing these answers on our understanding of wisps of tired government officials’ draft guidance letters, not on anything written with a firmly pressed pencil, let alone chiseled in stone.
Please treat these questions and answers as a tool for talking about PPACA with professional advisors, not as a substitute for competent professional advice.
1. Is a PPACA implementation timeline available?
Behold the effects of your tax dollars at work: the federal HealthCare.gov PPACA Timeline.
(To get timeline details, click on a checkmark, and you’ll see the details associated with the checkmark.)
Here’s a version of the timeline geared toward people with an interest in Medicaid.
Many states and state health insurance exchange managers have developed their own timelines. Colorado, for example, has posted an exchange timeline here.
2. Why won’t employers just pay the $2,000-per-employee penalty to be imposed on large employers that fail to provide a minimum level of insurance? Isn’t that cheaper for employers than paying for their portion of the health insurance?
3. Help me but wouldn’t it be cheaper for big employers to just pay the penalty?
Certainly, paying the $2,000 penalty would be cheaper than buying health insurance. But many employers already provide health benefits, even though they face no penalty at all for dropping coverage.
PPACA supporters are hoping that whatever forces spur employers to offer group coverage today will continue to do so after the PPACA exchange and PPACA health insurance underwriting and benefits rules take effect.
4. Will offering voluntary benefit programs help employers avoid penalties?
In theory, an employer could, if the voluntary health plan would cover 60 percent of the actuarial value of the essential health benefits (EHB) package, would provide first-dollar coverage for basic preventive services, and had premiums less than or equal to 9.5 percent of the W-2 wages of the lowest-paid employee.