Health Care Reform Focus Shifts to Compliance after Controversial Supreme Court Decision

Article excerpt

In its landmark decision June 28, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the health care reform law's individual coverage mandate, rejected a provision intended to force states to expand Medicaid coverage, and leftvirtually all other parts of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act intact.

While the court's validation of the individual mandate resolves one of the major questions about the law, the act still faces a contentious political landscape. Employers should continue to monitor actions by Congress and the administration, but stay on track with compliance-or face penalties.

"Employers will need to redouble their compliance efforts, especially regarding such immediate requirements as providing summaries of benefits and coverage to their employees," said Julio Portalatin, president and chief executive officer of the HR consultancy Mercer, in a statement.

In 2013, employers must:

* Report the value of employer coverage on IRS Form W-2.

* Cap dollar limits on health care flexible spending arrangements at $2,500.

* Increase Medicare withholding for those earning more than $200,000 per year.

They must also comply with the reforms already in effect, such as coverage of children up to age 26.

The individual mandate requires most Americans to have adequate health coverage starting in 2014 or pay a penalty. Also in 2014, employers with more than 50 employees that fail to offer fulltime employees and their dependents affordable coverage with a minimum value likewise will face penalties.

By 2014, health insurance exchanges are intended to be operating in every state, offering community-rated insurance to certain small employers and individuals, with federal premium tax credits available to help some people buy that coverage. …