Oct 28, 2016 - 4:00pm

Here are 3 Things on Employers' Health Care Reform Wish List

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AutoZone's Matthew Harmon (left) and Dow Chemical's Janet Boyd talk about health policy changes employers want.
AutoZone's Matthew Harmon (left) and Dow Chemical's Janet Boyd talk about health policy changes employers want at the U.S. Chamber.

Individuals who buy a health plan through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges will experience sticker shock—the average premium will increase next year by 25%, according to the Obama administration—and many will have fewer choices.

But for employers who provide 175 million Americans with health coverage, things aren’t great either, not with impending taxes on health plans, attacks on useful wellness programs, and increasing regulatory burdens.

At the U.S. Chamber’s health care event earlier this month, The Affordable Care Act & the Future of Health Reform, panelists representing employers spoke about three health policy changes that are needed.

1. Repealing the Cadillac Tax and Preserving the Exclusion

The majority of Americans receive their health care coverage through their employer.  Americans like these plans and want to keep them.  To do that, we must repeal the ACA's tax on employer-sponsored coverage and ward off attempts to change the current exclusion of these benefits from taxes.   

First, let’s look at the importance of repealing the ACA's 40% excise tax on high-value health plans—A.K.A. the “Cadillac Tax”—a mechanism designed to keep health care costs from spiraling upward.

Although in 2015, opponents of the tax were able to delay the tax for two years, they are still pushing for repeal, because it's bad policy.

Taxing plans “is not going to solve the problem of increasing costs,” said Janet Boyd, director of government relations and legislative counsel for Dow Chemical. "Companies, they have an inherent interest in making sure that the costs are reasonable--both for themselves and for their employees."

Even with the delay of the tax, employers—and their employees—have been forced to make benefit changes that include raising premiums, deductibles, and reducing services covered.

We must repeal this tax on benefits and preserve the ability of employers to provide innovative coverage that Americans enjoy.

2. Allowing Employers to Offer Incentives for Wellness Plans

In May, the EEOC issued rules on workplace wellness programs that “will have a chilling effect on the development, implementation, and innovation of workplace wellness programs, which Congress intended to be used as tools to improve employees’ health and lower health care costs,” said Randel Johnson, U.S. Chamber senior vice president of Labor, Immigration, and Employee Benefits.

Matthew Harmon, Director of Benefits and HRIS, Customer Satisfaction, AutoZone, thinks this is short-sighted. The EEOC "definitely muddied the waters for employers who are really trying to help employees get well, stay well, and prevent any of these chronic conditions," he said. "Because a managed chronic condition is a third-less costly to the individual as well as to the employer and to America."

“For a very small cost on the prevention side you can avoid that entire entanglement" from the high costs of chronic diseases like diabetes, he added.

3. Reduce Complex and Costly Regulations

With the ACA’s 2,000 pages of legislation came many more pages of regulations—many which get in the way of employers providing innovative, cost-effective health plans for their employees.

Boyd noted regulations need to embrace innovations in employers’ health plan designs. For instance, employers "are sensing that the best way to keep their populations healthy is to have on-site or near-site clinics that they have their plans tied into.” But those types of design innovations could be “cut off at the knees” by “being incorporated into things like definitions of what is a [health] plan and what you calculate for” under the Cadillac Tax.

For Harmon, it’s about the multitude of reporting requirement by the federal government—some of questionable value. "What it does to us is--the opportunity cost of putting in [health plan] designs that might be more efficient, that might help the individual--those have to be put on hold so that we can handle some of these other reporting regulations, which are data-intensive, time-intensive, and they certainly don't work out of the box,” he said.

As Boyd told the audience, “Most employers feel like there's a clear business imperative for having coverage.” What they want are public policies that help them offer innovative, high-quality plans in a more cost-effective and efficient manner.

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