Benefits

Employer Health Care Reform Law Communication Mandate Delayed

By Jerry Geisel

Nov. 18, 2011

Employers have more time to comply with rules dictated by the health care reform law that will require them to revamp how they communicate and explain their health care plans.

In a notice published Nov. 17, the Labor Department said the reporting requirements would not go into effect until after final rules are published.

“It is anticipated that the … final regulations, once issued, will include an applicability date that gives group health plans and health insurance issuers sufficient time to comply,” the Labor Department said.

At the time the proposed rules were issued by the Health and Human Services, Labor and Treasury departments, federal regulators said they would go into effect on March 23, 2012.

However, benefit experts said such a deadline for producing the summary of benefits and coverage would have been impossible to meet, and that the proposed rules were flawed in many ways.

“This is great news for employers since the initial guidance left much of how the (summary of benefits and coverage) would apply to large employer plans unaddressed,” said Rich Stover, a principal with Buck Consultants L.L.C. in Secaucus. New Jersey.

Among other things, the proposed rules would require employers to provide employees with an “easy-to-understand” summary of benefits and coverage and, upon request, a glossary of commonly used health care coverage terms, such as deductible and copay.

The summary of benefits and coverage would have to include the portion of expenses a health care plan would cover in each of three situations: having a baby, treating breast cancer and managing diabetes.

Additional examples might be added in the future, according to the rules.

Jerry Geisel writes for Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, email editors@workforce.com.

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Jerry Geisel writes for Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management.

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