Healthcare reform discussed

Members of Employee Benefits International Thursday afternoon gave a presentation on healthcare reform during a forum hosted by North Central Ohio Regional Council of Governments.

Employee Benefits International President Jim Dustin and Senior Consultant Dave Lewis talked about how businesses are to adjust the healthcare they offer their employees, according to the Affordable Care Act.

“The law is really designed to drive behavior,” Dustin said. “It is designed to standardize coverage across the United States; it was done so for a specific purpose. Health reform is really an offshoot of trying to get a single-payer system into place in the U.S. It wasn’t politically popular, so they designed a law to drive to a single-payer system over time.”

Dustin said as healthcare coverage becomes more uniform, it will make it easier to move to a “one size fits all” type of program.

The Affordable Care Act requires individuals to obtain healthcare coverage and it entails employers to provide coverage, he said.

The healthcare reform is funded through a series of taxes, some of which have already gone into effect, Dustin said.

The act applies to all large employers, which are defined as an employer who has 50 or more full-time employees. He said full-time employees are defined as an employee who works 30 or more hours a week, or 130 or more hours per month.

He said there is a calculation that determines whether or not part-time and seasonal employees count toward the number of full-time employees for the employer.

Dustin said the Affordable Care Act also is likely to change the way employers use seasonal employees, and businesses likely are to manage part-time workers more tightly.

He said the law also may change the way businesses hire new employees.

Large employers are to offer minimum essential coverage that is affordable or they will have to pay a non-deductible excise tax to the federal government, Dustin said.

Minimum essential coverage is defined as a “policy that pays out at least 60-percent actuarial value of covered benefits,” and affordable is defined as “employees whose household incomes are less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level pay no more than 9.5 percent of their income toward heath care premiums,” he said.

Dustin said changes to the underwriting system that take effect Jan. 1 may pose the biggest problems for employers.