Business Q & A

September 12, 2013

5 questions with Karen Vines

Karen Vines says she didn’t grow up thinking she’d be in the insurance field.

Karen Vines says she didn’t grow up thinking she’d be in the insurance field.

“The personal interaction has kept me in the business through all the ups and downs the industry has gone through and continues to go through,” said Vines, vice president of benefits, governance and compliance at IMA of Kansas.

A lifelong Wichita resident who attended Wichita State University, Vines joined IMA in 2006. She’s spoken at several events and conferences around Wichita regarding the onset of the Affordable Care Act, trying to help employers navigate the constantly changing regulations of law.

Q. 1 What is the best thing people should do to prepare for implementation of the Affordable Care Act?

A. Having a very robust education – whether educating your employees or yourself as an employer to understand the landscape, how it works and what the mechanics of it are – is the most critical thing. If you don’t understand it, you don’t know how to create an action plan.

Q. 2 Any predictions on the new online marketplaces, which are supposed to open Oct. 1?

A. I think that it’s going to be potentially a little bumpy in the beginning. … From a premium standpoint, it’s going to be interesting.

There’s been a slow release of information coming from a couple of states that they’re going to potentially see some beneficial premiums for individuals, but we’ve heard from other states that they feel their premiums are going to be different in a negative way due to the rating landscape not being fully matured. There are a lot of unknowns.

Q. 3 Has a lot of information been put out about how the IRS will impose penalties for those who don’t get insurance?

A. I don’t think the IRS has given full clarity to specific mechanics, although it is a tax, which the court solidified in its individual mandate ruling. What we do know at this point is as individuals, when we file our tax returns, we will likely have new information to populate on the form in terms of insurance circumstances.

Some of the information will come from employers and then employers will have a responsibility, and insurance companies, to report certain information on individuals. The idea is for the IRS to collate that information from all angles and determine if I have insurance that’s accessible or if I need to pay a penalty, and that also allows the IRS to look at the employer side of the penalty.

Q. 4 But the penalties for the employer mandate were delayed another year. What was the reaction?

A. What happened July 2 caught the industry as a whole by surprise. I’m a little hesitant now to speculate, but we really have to emphasize that we have to operate based on what we know. …

Some reactions from clients, especially those in industries most challenged to figure out what to do, there was a huge sigh of relief that it would give them more time to explore options. … The best advice I give clients is that this just gave you more time to be thoughtful in creating a strategy. Let’s not ignore it for another year or you’ll just be faced with the same challenge.

Q. 5 What are some of the biggest challenges for employers and the new law?

A. Since the bill passed almost three and a half years ago, the massive scope of the legislation has been from the beginning – and will continue to be going forward – one of the biggest challenges. We’re walking on ground no one has walked on before, and you have to try to be as nimble as you can and make sure you have yourself aligned with good resources. …

There’s always going to be the dynamic of the political landscape, and how they view the law on a personal level and how to apply it from a business perspective. It’s easy sometimes for businesses to get caught up over what might change in the future.

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