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Regulation and Compliance > Federal Regulation

Benefits educators prepare for a new world

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The Affordable Care Act (ACA) might be better known as the “Adapt and Change Act.”

The Obama administration continues to issue regulations and other guidance to implement the law. What you know to be true today, might not be true tomorrow. And as 2014 is fast approaching, the guidance will continue to flow-fast and furiously-from Washington.

So fasten your seat belt. As the ACA re-engineers health care, fundamentally shifting the landscape of employer-sponsored benefits in America, we–brokers, agents, and benefit professionals alike–will continually be challenged to review and understand this complex law.

The House Committee on Ways and Means estimates that individuals and small businesses will collectively spend 80 million hours as they strive to comply with all of the ACA tax rules!

Most HR professionals don’t have time to read all the rules and regulations, let alone understand and then interpret them for their employees. Let’s just say that benefit managers and administrators are knee-deep in complex legalese as they strive to ensure their companies are in compliance.

Now, more than at any other time in the history of our industry, corporate benefit managers are looking for broker and agent partners who have demonstrated both knowledge of the industry and the Affordable Care Act’s requirements.

So the question becomes: do you want to buckle down and starting reading all the regulations — or align yourself with an organization that can help you sort through the minutiae?

The Employer Council on Flexible Compensation (ECFC) is one of those organizations.

ECFC provides designation programs at many different levels.

We have no single specific designation tied directly the ACA, but the regulations flowing freely out of Washington have us revisiting our programming on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis to ensure they reflect the most up-to-date guidance and compliance information.

Employee benefit planning was already complex and, at the risk of understatement, has only gotten more complicated since the ACA.

Threaded within the thousands of pages of ACA regulations are requirements regarding benefits that must be offered, cost-sharing structures, and federal formulas for determining a plan’s actuarial value.

One example of the effects of ACA-related challenges on designation program providers: ECFC efforts to prepare the programming for our annual Administrators’ Symposium, which will start July 31 in St Louis.

Our education committee will have to work up to the last minute to ensure that the content of our designation programs is updated to include any new developments.

We have seen tax-advantaged arrangements remain the “affordable” in the Affordable Care Act; however, even these programs have felt the impact of the ACA in the last few years.

Some of the rules like, coverage for adult children; changes to the over-the-counter medication claim filing, new $2,500 maximum on health flexible spending accounts (FSAs) have already been implemented.

Next year, we will see stand-alone health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) go away, self-funded plans may be on the rise, and employers will need help in understanding their options.

Our programming will have to evolve with the regulatory times as we strive to remain a leading resource for employee benefit education and compliance.

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