Kim Buckey (Photo: DirectPath) Kim Buckey (Photo: DirectPath)

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is not in great health.

The ACA is alive.

For Kim Buckey, one key idea about administering big employee benefit plans and benefit plan communications program is that the ACA is still with us.

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Kim Buckey, vice president of client services at  DirectPath, a benefit plan enrollment and administration firm based in Birmingham, Alabama, talked about the lingering effects of the ACA in a recent interview.

A year ago, Buckey and her firm’s clients were spending time meeting ACA notice and benefits requirements.

This tear, Buckey and DirectPath clients continue to spend time complying with ACA notice and benefits requirements.

The administration of President Donald might like to ease ACA reporting requirements, for example, but, at this point, the ACA Form 1095 health coverage reporting system remains in place.

“Everything is still status quo,” Buckey said in the interview. “It’s still required.”

Buckey is also hearing about cases of employers receiving penalty letters related to ACA filings. Most of the ones she knows about involve coding errors and other errors, not cases of employers owing ACA “employer shared responsibility” penalties because uninsured, full-time employees received premium tax credit subsidies for ACA public exchange plan coverage.

Here are four other benefits topics Buckey talked about during the interview.

1. Association Health Plans

Buckey is not yet seeing much activity in DirectPath’s large-plan sector in connection with Trump administration’s association health plan (AHP) plan push.

2. Private Exchange Programs

A few years ago, one source of hope and fear was the idea that private organizations would create their own “private exchange programs,” or web-based supermarkets for employee benefits.

Some are still out there doing well, and individual insurers and brokers have built exchange technology and concepts into their own operations, but, when it comes to the actual term “private exchange,” that trend is not occupying much space in Buckey’s mind.

“I haven’t heard anything about private exchanges for the past year or so,” Buckey said.

3. Engagement

The idea of increasing employee engagement is popping up everyone.

Buckey said there’s a reason for that: It’s important.

Her own company is trying to increase engagement with tools such as online calculators, meetings and one-on-one support, to help make employees more aware of what the employers offer and why those benefits might be of interest.

4. Financial Wellness

Financial wellness is another popular topic that’s on Buckey’s radar.

“It’s definitely been getting a lot of attention,” Buckey said.

She finds that many employers are interested in finding ways to help employees with the student loan burden. Some focus on referral services, but some want to find ways to get more involved with helping employees pay down or refinance their student loans.

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