CHICAGO – The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is, as intended, reshaping the benefits world but many HR managers are struggling to stay on top of the law’s many rules, though there’s no evidence of a looming implementation train wreck.
Those were the big takeaways Sunday from a report released by the Society for Human Resource Management and a presentation by Alex Alonso, the organization’s vice president of research.
Alonso said a quarter of the survey’s respondents reported they were having a tough time keeping up with the changes in the health care law and what is expected of them.
Employers have long complained about the complexity of the law but SHRM’s finding is especially troubling given the short few months left before full implementation of the law begins in October.
The nominal good news? Twenty percent of those questioned said they were having trouble understanding the details of the law vs. 31 percent in 2010.
Alonso initially described the finding as “astonishing,” though he later softened his comment, terming it merely “interesting.”
Despite these findings, he said SHRM saw no evidence of “any kind of train wreck” – which is how some critics of the law in Congress and others have described their concerns.
“It’s clear there are certain perspectives about the law but I don’t think there’s any looming disaster,” he said.
In fact, people are getting ahead of the law, according to SHRM’s research.
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For example, more employers are offering contraceptive coverage today rather than waiting for implementation deadlines to arrive Jan. 1.
According to the study, 82 percent of surveyed employers now offer such coverage, up from 66 percent in 2009.
The PPACA requires that preventive services, including birth control, be included in new health insurance plans.
Another provision of the law requires employers with more than 50 employees to provide private space or lactation rooms for nursing mothers. The SHRM report showed that one-third of employers (34 percent) now have a separate lactation or mother’s room that goes above and beyond the law, an increase from 25 percent in 2009.
The 2013 Employee Benefits Research Report also found that one-quarter of employers in states that have legalized same-sex marriage now offer domestic partner benefits, excluding health care coverage. That’s an increase from 15 percent last year and 14 percent in 2009.
The survey of 518 randomly selected HR professionals examines 299 benefits. Among other findings:
- Employee referral bonuses are up, with 47 percent of surveyed organizations now offering such bonuses, up from 38 percent in 2012.
- Organizations are developing their employees’ skill sets with professional development opportunities (offered by 88 percent of employers), cross-training to develop skills not directly related to employees’ current jobs (44 percent) and formal mentoring programs (20 percent). Offsite professional development opportunities are offered by 85 percent of organizations surveyed.
- Paid-time-off plans and wellness benefits continued to increase in popularity, while housing and relocation benefits were less common.
- The most commonly offered benefits were: prescription drug program coverage (98 percent of organizations offered them), paid holidays (97 percent), dental insurance (96 percent) and defined contribution retirement savings plans (92 percent).
- Among health care and welfare benefits, the majority of employers provide mental health coverage (89 percent), and the most common type of health insurance was a preferred provider organization (PPO) plan (86 percent).