Forum addresses healthcare changes for businesses
The Supreme Court spoke loud and clear almost a month ago when it upheld the entire Affordable Care Act (ACA) as constitutional in a monumental decision that will affect businesses and individuals alike.
Businesses in the Richmond area are now left trying to decipher and understand the complexities of the bill and how it will affect them and insurance carriers.
“Whether you represent small, large, public or nonprofit entities, we’re all going to be effected as employers and consumers,” Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce and BB&T Insurance Services of Virginia executive Seth Roth said during a panel discussion about healthcare reform July 19 at the Anthem Headquarters in Henrico.
The discussion, hosted by the Chamber to address the changes that come with the ACA, involved four leading experts who spoke on behalf of various health-related businesses to assist in the understanding of what the decision means and what local companies need to do to move forward.
The ACA essentially will make going without insurance something that is taxable by the government, while enlisting new laws that employers must comply with or face penalties. Many of the ACA changes have started to take effect this year.
Employers now will be required to complete W2 reporting on the cost of employer-sponsored group health care coverage.
For the W2 reporting a section will be added to box 12 to include a new code “DD” that reports the costs of employee sponsored healthcare coverage.
Anthem and other health insurers in Virginia already are dealing with the new laws, as rebate checks are being mailed to customers for not spending enough of health premiums on medical costs under some health plans.
The medical loss ratio rebates issued to consumers require insurance companies to spend a certain percentage of premium dollars on medical care and health care improvement. The rebates have to be distributed as taxable income to employers, said Susan Maley Rash, vice president at BB&T Benefit Consultants of Virginia.
Employers also must cover specific preventative health services for women with exceptions applying to religious employers. Employers also must have offer a $2,500 maximum contribution to healthcare flexible spending (FSA) plans and enlist new Medicare taxes, which will be increased by nine percent.
There also will be a tax on unearned income for high-income individuals and couples.
Opinions on law split
One of the ACA decisions that already has been implemented and will remain in effect is the requirement to cover adult children until age 26 and the requirement of non-grandfathered plans to cover certain preventative care services without cost-sharing.
By 2014, people may no longer be declined for pre-existing conditions, and there will be a modified community rating for small groups and individuals.
The rates will be based upon family tier, age, geography and tobacco use. The change is designed to decrease insurance rates for those who are older and increase rates for insured younger people.
“The healthcare reform laws were needed,” said Mckinley Tucker, CEO of Risk and Identity Solutions, a Henrico-based small business.
“We are the only industrialized nation without healthcare and I think people should try to get some of the emotion out of the issue and look at the positives,” Tucker said. “My daughter is 23 years old and was in the hospital over 20 times between Feb. 14 and now, and she has more pre-existing conditions than you could imagine. As a retired teacher, I was thinking about taking a job to help her pay for her insurance because it would go up. But with the new law she can stay on my insurance until 26 and I can keep her on the plan for as long as I can.”
Not everyone is so optimistic about the ACA; larger companies of 50 employees or more may have to deal with penalties.
Beginning in 2014, there will be an employer penalty for not offering minimum coverage, as well as an employer tax for not offering minimum coverage and an annual insurer fee for fully insured businesses.
If companies have less than 25 full-time employees who each make an average of less than $50,000, there is a credit allowable for a two-year period but only if coverage is purchased through the exchange.
“We will probably benefit from the new law,” said Charles E. McCabe, president and CEO of People’s Tax in Glen Allen. “I have about 15 full-time and 20 seasonal employees so we’re below 50 employees and will not be affected by the penalties, and we pay 50 percent of the employees’ health care now.”
Tax credits will help small businesses and nonprofit organizations, and the credits currently total as much as 35 percent of the businesses’ health premiums but will increase to 50 percent in 2014.
However medium to large businesses - those with at least 50 full-time employees - will not benefit because the “pay or play” penalty will be enacted. Certain employers that either don’t offer health care or do not meet the law’s test for affordability will face penalties.
It is possible that changes could be made to the ACA through future legislation or court rulings; however, the health care reform law is currently in effect and employers should continue to prepare for ACA changes that will become effective in the next two years. For answers to many of the big questions, carriers and employers will have to wait until after the election in November.
The threat of bad weather didn’t keep visitors away from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden July 10 for the facility’s weekly Flowers After 5 event (which pairs music and food with a chance to stroll the garden) and its monthly Fidos After 5 (which allows dog owners to bring their pets with them to enjoy the evening). > Read more.
Thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from the Western Henrico Rotary Club, another bright pink Jeep modified to travel extremely rough terrain has been delivered to Midwives For Haiti so that more pregnant women in the quake-ravaged country will have access to prenatal care and a greater chance of surviving childbirth.
The funds were raised at the annual casino night held in February, club president Adam Cherry said. The Rotary Club also helped purchase the Virginia-based charity’s first pink jeep three years ago. > Read more.
Canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts soon will have a new access point to the Chickahominy River. VDOT, the James River Association and Henrico County Parks and Recreation are teaming up to establish a new site in Eastern Henrico.
The James River Association negotiated the deal with VDOT to procure official access to the area located just east of I-295 on North Airport Road in Sandston. The site includes a park-and-ride commuter lot bordering the Chickahominy River and has been an unofficial launch site used by paddlers for years. > Read more.
Take in a show at several locations this weekend! West End Comedy will provide laughs at HATTheatre; the production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes” will close Sunday; and the youth theatre company CharacterWorks will present “Footloose” at The Steward School. Another show perfect for the kids – “Despicable Me 2” is playing at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center tonight. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
‘Earth to Echo’ aims to become this generation’s ‘ET’
It’s no secret that all found-footage genre movies are the same. Grab a couple of characters, give one of them a camera, and expose them to something supernatural that’s content to lurk just off-screen until the last five minutes. Everything else will just fall into place.
But that formula isn’t particularly family friendly, if only because that thing waiting a few feet to the left of the cast is usually plotting their violent doom.
That’s what sets Earth to Echo apart from the pack. It, too, follows a group of characters armed with a camera and a tendency to encounter unknown life forms. But all those familiar parts have been rearranged just enough to make it suitable for a much younger audience. > Read more.
An eclectic array of events are taking place this weekend throughout the county. In the West End, we have the Richmond Wedding Expo, the Under the Stars Family Film Series and Henrico Theatre Company’s production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes.” In the eastern part of the county, we have a blood drive at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center, Gallmeyer Farm’s annual Sweet Corn Festival and an origami workshop at Fairfield Library. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
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