Frank Morris Quoted in “ADAAA at Five: Intent Largely Realized, But Interpretation Continuing to Evolve”

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Frank C. Morris, Jr., a Member of the Firm in the Litigation and Employee Benefits practices and head of the Labor and Employment practice in the Washington, DC, office, was quoted in an article titled "Companies Face Huge Healthcare Decisions, Despite Delays."

Following is an excerpt:

Employers may be getting a temporary reprieve from the "pay-or-play" employer mandate of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but that doesn't mean other healthcare reform requirements won't be hitting them soon. On July 2, the Treasury Department and White House announced that some employer reporting requirements and the employer shared responsibility penalty of the healthcare reform law have been pushed forward to 2015.

Many other aspects of the ACA remain in effect or are close at hand, despite the delay. It's crucial for employers to address benefit design issues, with or without the "pay-or-play" delay, right now, says Frank Morris, head of the law firm Epstein Becker & Green's Labor and Employment practice.

As a concession to businesses, and in an attempt to facilitate the post-reform transition, "If you are not taking proactive steps now to control your costs you will be quite likely hit with a 40 percent, non-deductible excise tax," Morris says. "If you are the chief of benefits or human resources, you don't want to be explaining to the CFO and CEO why your organization is paying this extra tax. The only time you can do something about it is now, not in 2018."

There are also some incentives in the ACA that companies won't have to wait to take advantage of. For example, the ACA increases the allowed wellness incentive from 20 percent of the cost of coverage to 30 percent for plan years that begin on, or after, Jan. 1, 2014. According to Morris, companies should ramp up their offering of wellness programs, an effort that by improving employee health and decreasing their utilization of healthcare services will drive down benefit costs.

"Because it is a process, and takes time, an employer cannot just sit back and wait to see what happens," Morris says. Other cost-saving moves that companies should consider: value based purchasing and steering employees to retail clinics that offer lower-cost services. "Anything that can maximize employee health, but minimizes costs, is on the table," he says. "The focus is on bang for the buck."