As you start your day as a busy benefits professional, you turn on the morning news, and you hear that the Department of Health and Human Services has changed the Form W-2 health insurance reporting requirement effective date from 2011 to 2012.

You then log on to the Internet and see that the Republicans have gained control of the House of Representatives and are vowing to repeal and replace health care reform legislation.

As you get into your car, your medical insurance carrier representative calls saying she needs to explain the carrier's interpretation and practice of handling grandfathered and nongrandfathered plans.

It's 7:03 a.m., and you've already witnessed three dances from the "clay skeleton."

The clay skeleton is a playful yet practical way of describing health care reform legislation, which has and will continue to be pushed, pulled, and molded by numerous influences. The dances are the impact that each of these influences has on the clay skeleton. (See chart, below.)

With everything on your plate, it's critical that you have easy and immediate access to health care reform updates.

Employee benefit-related websites, such as healthcare.gov, benefitslink.com, ebn.benefitnews.com and your medical insurance carrier's site all provide news and up-to-date information on health care reform.

Now that you have the right shoes, you need to find a dance partner who can help you sashay effectively through the next eight years. These include:

* Employee benefit consultants. Focus on consultants who are prepared to develop short-term and long-term benefit strategies (including robust financial modeling), have significant communication experience (to prepare you for continual back and forth with senior management and employees), and will assist you with implementing the health care reform provisions affecting your organization.

* Employee benefits attorneys. Based on the breadth, volume and volatility associated with health care reform and its respective provisions, it will be well-worth your investment to retain an employee benefits attorney that specializes in the health care reform legislation.

You'll want to ensure that both senior management and any internal functional areas you work with (e.g., payroll, HR information systems, finance) appreciate and respect the clay skeleton and its dance.

As departments one step removed from the everyday volatility of health care reform, but heavily engaged in its implementation, it will be critical to educate your functional areas so they can gain an understanding of the impact it will have on their responsibilities.

Because there are so many influences on health care reform, it is not anticipated that the dance will end anytime soon, nor is it known how many moves it will generate.

However, if you have the right shoes (a good understanding of where to find the most up-to-date information), plus the right dance teacher (someone dedicated to getting you through the lefts, rights, ups and downs of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act), you'll be prepared to perfect the dance sooner than you know.


Contributing Editor Ed Bray is director of compliance for Burnham Benefits Insurance Services and Burnham Gibson Financial Services. He helps corporate clients establish and maintain regulatory compliance for their health and welfare benefit plans. He can be reached at bray@burnhambenefits.com. Follow EBN on: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Podcasts

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