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King v. Burwell decision a relief for HR managers

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King v. Burwell will not threaten the legacy of President Barack Obama after all. Nor will it add further uncertainty and chaos to the already burdensome task of bringing employer health plans into compliance with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

In a 6-3 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld PPACA’s health insurance premium subsidies, thus preserving affordable coverage for millions of Americans.

Employers, whether they personally supported the subsidies or not, won’t have to tread water while the subsidy system is replaced as a result of the ruling.

“The ruling will not have a significant impact on employers and the human resources department. It maintains the status quo for time being,” said Tami Simon, global practice leader at Buck Consultants.

Simon said this second major endorsement of Obamacare by the court shouldn’t be seen as anything more than a narrow ruling on a specific challenge to part of the law. (The first was its 2012 decision supporting the law’s individual mandate.)

“I would like to think those two cases were decided on the merits of the issue rather than something larger,” like an endorsement of PPACA itself, she said. “Challenges to PPACA are going to continue, you can be sure of that.”

The National Business Group on Health, which represents large employers’ interest in national health issues, applauded the decision.

“Millions of Americans, including employees, retirees, and their families, can now rest assured that they will continue to have access to federal subsidies that help keep their health insurance coverage affordable,” said Brian Marcotte, NBGH president and CEO. “It also reassures employers in affected states which have relied on exchanges for early retirees, part-time employees and other employees, that there will be no disruption in coverage.”

NBGH’s public policy director Steve Wojcik said the King v. Burwell decision emphasized “the administration and Congress’s need to focus on real health reform — rationalizing the way we pay for and deliver health care in this country.”

The Society for Human Resource Management also expressed the need for policy makers to move forward quickly to address other thorny aspects of PPACA in light of the court’s upholding “the constitutionality of a key element of the Affordable Care Act.”

Priorities for SHRM include defining a full-time employee for coverage mandate, the pending excise, or Cadillac, tax on high-value health care plans, and employer flexibility in the design of wellness programs.


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