The dawn of 2015 means the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate is now in effect. As a result, brokers need to be more educated and prepared than ever to help their clients navigate the law. Even though health care has been a widely publicized topic in the U.S. throughout the past few years, writes Mary Dale Walters for Financial Advisor Magazine’s website, many are still “hindered by a lack of health insurance literacy.”
The Kaiser Family Foundation’s December 2014 Health Policy Tracking Poll found that in general, consumers aren’t well informed about marketplace deadlines and fines, and continue to believe many common misperceptions. In this time of confusion, advisers need to make sure they know the ins and outs of the law, Walters writes. “If it hasn’t happened already, one day your phone will ring and a client will ask you about Obamacare,” she writes.
The employer mandate and other changes to the law mean employers must stay up to date on what’s required regarding employees with variable hours, penalties for non-compliant employer-payment arrangements, and reporting rules, writes Alde Bianchi for Employee Benefit News. “That the ACA employer reporting rules are in place, and that the final forms and instructions are imminent should give employers little comfort,” Bianchi writes. “These rules are ghastly in their complexity. They require the collection, processing and integration of data from multiple sources – payroll, benefits admiration, and HR, among others.” Businesses need what he calls “expert systems” to track compliance, and employers should contact their payroll vendors and consultants to make sure they’re proactively approaching reporting rules.
Melissa A. Winn, writing for Employee Benefit Adviser’s website, compares the law to a moving target that will require regular – not just annual, but monthly – attention. Penalties are assessed monthly, so employers will need to work with brokers and advisers to make sure they’re constantly complying.
Walters says it’s an opportunity for those willing to learn enough to help guide their clients. “The advantage for (advisers) is the opportunity to play a role in the broader picture of health care coverage choices and the economic impact on their clients,” Walters writes. “There are viable opportunities for individuals … that simply didn’t exist just a couple of years ago. Choosing to work with benefits coordination specialists who have experience in both the public health exchanges and Medicare can make a tremendous difference for financial advisers who are guiding their clients down the path of long-term financial prospects for their golden years.”