Ten employer groups, including the Association of Builders and Contractors, the National Association of Health Underwriters, the National Retail Federation and the Society for Human Resource Management, are joining forces to advocate for more favorable healthcare and benefit policies.
Dubbed the Partnership for Employer-Sponsored Coverage, the group is planning a formal launch in the spring.
P4ESC seeks to promote legislative and regulatory amendments to the Affordable Care Act, such as reducing the reporting requirements within the employer shared-responsibility provision.
In the process, the group expects to expand its ranks. “We plan to add other organizations as time goes on,” says Christine Pollack, vice president of healthcare consultancy Horizon Government Affairs and the executive director for P4ESC.
A primary focus for the coalition is Senate bill 1908, also known as the Commonsense Reporting Act. The bill amends the ACA and the Internal Revenue Code to relax employer requirements for reporting health insurance coverage information to the IRS. Reforms include modifications to the information that employers must provide and the leeway to voluntarily report the information prior to the start of a company’s open enrollment period.
Other changes P4ESC is working towards include redefining what is considered full-time employment and relief from the health insurance tax and ACA’s employer mandate requirements.
“Whenever somebody says the ACA costs a lot of money, they are really referring to the level of reporting that goes into it,” Pollack says. “These changes will help streamline the process for employers.”
Making reporting less onerous for employers
Annette Bechtold, SVP of regulatory affairs and reform initiatives at OneDigital, a top 50 benefits brokerage, agrees that “We need to make it less onerous for employers to offer healthcare to their employees.” The level of reporting required by the ACA has forced
Bechtold’s clients to expend a great deal of time and money to remain in compliance, and she notes that the relief provided by amending the process would allow them to extend coverage to more employees.
Pollack adds that without congressional action the Treasury Department and the IRS have little authority to introduce employer mandate penalty relief.
“This is why it is so important to get the Commonsense Reporting Act signed into law,” she says, “so the Treasury and the IRS can help us.”
The coalition also seeks to educate congressmen on the importance of employer-sponsored healthcare and that one-size solutions do not fit all.
“Employer-sponsored plans far exceed any other benefit program in the marketplace,” observes Bechtold. “Next in line is Medicaid and Medicare, but the employer-sponsored market covers the vast majority.”
The group also wants to advocate on behalf of advisers. “We want to explain what brokers do on a daily basis and how they are the voice of employers,” says Pollack. “They are truly the HR departments and the experts that employers turn to; that message is critical.”
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