With employer reporting requirements under the Affordable Care Act now in effect, employers and their benefit advisers continue to struggle to understand the law, but their focus has had to shift from deciphering it to implementing it.

“The last few years, we’ve talked about what the ACA means, but now it’s implementation time,” says Lawrence Beebe, a partner with the accounting firm Bond Beebe.

He told attendees of the 2015 International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans Washington Legislative Update Monday in Washington, D.C., “Our primary goal this year for the foundation is to help everybody involved implement ACA.”

Annette Guarisco Fildes, president and CEO of the ERISA Industry Committee, says private sector employers are looking at the law very cautiously. And, since many employers already offered health care benefits, the law’s implementation creates mostly a reporting and cost issue.

As part of a panel on the future of the ACA, Fildes told attendees that employers have been and are putting together teams of experts, including compliance teams, government relations teams, etc.

“They’ve invested time and money to understand the law and their requirements,” she says.

For multiemployer plans, Kathryn L. Bakich, senior vice president and National Health Compliance Practice Leader at the Segal Company, says many continue to be grandfathered, but even those that are grandfathered are preparing for when they lose that status.

She says these employers are slowly starting to implement ACA plan requirements, such as the preventive coverage requirements, out of pocket maximum, etc.

Most plans, she adds, “have not terminated benefits for retirees, but they are looking at different designs,” including transitioning them to the exchanges, Medicare qualification, etc.

John Abrams, co-director for the center for worker’s benefits and capital strategies of the research and strategic initiatives department of the American Federation of Teachers, says that for 95% of its members, nothing has changed, but the Federation is doing everything it can to help the 5% of members that are not covered, including part-time cooks, nurses, bus drivers, etc.

“The biggest issue we’ve had to deal with is the 30-hour work week,” he says. “Particularly for community colleges, there are a lot of adjunct professors that had been teaching full-time and are being cut back.”

Cadillac Tax

“The single biggest issue facing our members is the Cadillac tax,” Abrams said. “It’s a huge and complicated tax that we believe will significantly harm employer-provided insurance if it gets fully implemented in 2018.”­

See related: Cadillac tax remains top-priority concern for employers

While his group is working in coalition with other groups to fight the tax, he encourages employers to understand what their premiums are today and project out what they will be in 2018 as an effort to figure out whether they need to make plan changes now or they can wait.

“We’ve told them they need to consider cost containment now,” he says, adding that he also encourages employers to embrace wellness.

Fildes says 40% of her member plans will likely be subject to the excise tax in 2018 and many more will be in the future. She and Bakich agree employers and their advisers should evaluate their current plan designs to see if they will be subject to the tax.

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