Kim Buckey, vice president of client services at DirectPath, helps large employers deal with some of the larger snarls of federal employee benefits red tape.
DirectPath guides its employer clients through the dreaded Affordable Care Act coverage reporting process.
The Birmingham, Alabama-based company also works with employers to produce ACA Summary of Benefits and Coverage notices; traditional Summary Plan Descriptions (SPDs) for all benefit plans governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act; and many other types of employee communication materials.
In January, Buckey was hoping the new Trump administration would reach out more to the benefits community and ease red tape.
Here’s a look at some of what Buckey is seeing in the benefits market now, drawn from a telephone interview conducted Thursday.
1. The Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) and other federal agencies are harder to reach than they were two years ago.
Early on, the Trump administration invited many benefits community players to come to Washington to help brief transition team officials on benefits program details, Buckey said.
Now, Buckey said, reaching administration officials involved with benefits issues, whether to ask a question or resolve technical problems, tends to be more difficult than it was two years ago.
The Trump administration is still filling vacant positions at agencies like EBSA, and that might be affecting the agencies’ ability to respond to questions from the public, Buckey said.
2. DirectPath’s employer clients like the ACA preventive services package coverage requirement.
The Affordable Care Act requires major medical plans, included self-funded plans, to cover the goods and services in a basic package of preventive services without imposing co-payments, deductibles or other out-of-pocket costs on the patient.
In practice, the package includes coverage for annual checkups, vaccinations, and a wide range of screening tests.
“I think that’s an incredibly popular benefit,” Buckey said.
Even if the ACA goes away, “I don’t see that going away,” she said.
3. Buckey has not met any clients who have complained about the birth control benefits mandate.
The drafters of the ACA never mentioned birth control or contraception in the text of the bills that created the ACA. The statute did call for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to work with its own Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to come up with preventives services package recommendation for women.
HRSA recommended that the preventive care services package include birth control.