The Unicorn HRO Blog

Affordable Care Act – What is your Benefit Strategy ?

Posted Tuesday, June 23, 2015 by Unicorn HRO

With recent changes under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), many businesses are finding that the health plans that they have historically offered no longer meet current regulations. As a result, many HR Departments are considering whether it makes financial sense to continue to offer their own benefit packages, weighing the pros and cons of implementing new benefit packages under employer mandates, or looking elsewhere for alternative options. The ACA has also resulted in changes to the determination of staff eligibility for benefits, and HR managers must also consider how to implement administrative software solutions to support changes to payroll, and enrollment processes. 

As a result, HR Managers are currently evaluating different strategies and plan types to offer their staff. They are considering how to remain compliant with ACA regulations to avoid paying penalties, in addition to determining how to reduce costs to their business. Some attractive options include the use of public health exchanges, which allow staff who are employed by companies that do not offer their own benefits package the flexibility to purchase health plans under government run exchange systems. Companies may also choose to provide unsubsidized medical coverage, limit spousal coverage, and even reduce their workforce to ‘part time only’ workers, to which mandated coverage under the ACA does not apply. As these strategies and organizational changes can be drastic, leading to a period of unrest for workers and affecting staff morale and productivity, HR departments should carefully consider these options. One of the first steps that a company must take before developing a benefit strategy is taking the time to understand how the ACA affects their specific business. This will vary greatly depending on the company size; companies employing 50 or more full time employees being responsible for providing health benefits, should they not want to face tax penalties. Considering how new benefit strategies will be developed, implemented, and communicated to staff is also important. 

HR departments should also be aware of the new requirements surrounding how they report information on their benefit coverage to the IRS and government agencies. Fortunately, there are now a variety of software solutions which help to support businesses in these procedures, streamline the process, and ensure compliance. These options include software as service (SaaS) technologies which manage a range of administrative processes from the notification of health benefit options to staff, employee tracking and management, to audit trail systems. A new industry of Human Resource Specialist companies has developed, which provide consultancy services and expertise in new ACA regulations. These may be good options for businesses that require support in identifying areas of non-compliance, advice on how to develop benefit and recording strategies to help bring their company in line with new regulations.  



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