Since President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on March 23rd, 2010, small changes have been implemented over a number of years to be fully completed by 2015. The ACA mandates that everyone in the United States maintain health insurance coverage, aiming to provide affordable, accessible and a higher quality of care to families, seniors, businesses, and taxpayers alike.
As an employer, you may already provide health coverage for your employees, although there are a number of factors that may affect the health benefits that you need to consider.
- Essential Health Benefits
By 2014 there are ten categories that each health insurance plan must offer. These categories are: Ambulatory patient services, Emergency services, Hospitalization, Maternity and newborn care, Mental health and substance use disorder services, prescription drugs, Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices, Laboratory services, Prevention, Wellness, and chronic disease management services, and Pediatric services including vision and dental care. Employers must ensure their current health benefits plans include these categories to be compliant.
- Expanding Voluntary Benefits
Consider the different demographics of your employees. An employee who is straight out of college will require a different benefits plan than a married individual with two children. Offering a range of voluntary benefits allows employees to opt in for the benefits that suit their lifestyle. Outside of dental, medical and life insurance, you may consider offering accidental protection, critical illness, cancer policies, short-term disability, long-term care, hospital supplemental, pet insurance or travel services, to name a few.
- The Exchange
For employers who don’t offer employee benefits or small businesses that cannot afford to purchase health care insurance, there will an online marketplace called an Exchange. The Exchange will offer consumers and small employers with necessary resources to compare the cost of coverage plans, answers to frequently asked questions relating to coverage options, tax credit information, financial support, and the option to enroll in a health insurance plan.
- Changes to Current Policies
For employers currently providing insurance plans, there are a number of provisions that have come into effect and may affect your existing employee benefits. There will be a ban on denying coverage to children because of a preexisting condition, not allowing young adults to stay on their parent’s insurance until age 26, and annual and lifetime caps on coverage will be eliminated, amongst other changes.