The new health benefits law may be as irritating as fingernails on a chalkboard, a Wichita attorney said Thursday, "but we all have to deal with it."
And employers better start dealing with it right away, Eric Namee, an attorney with Hinkle Elkouri, told a group of benefits managers and others.
He and two colleagues joined with Gary Hardman of Hardman Benefit Plans for a workshop on what employers need to know about the new law.
Among the immediate steps they said need to be taken:
* Employers must decide whether it's possible to retain their health plan's grandfathered status — and whether they want to. The benefits may be outweighed by the requirements.
* They must review and update dependent eligibility, to meet the "age 26 mandate."
* Those with fully insured plans must deal with new nondiscrimination rules on coverage and employer subsidies.
* They must make sure all documents and enrollment materials reflect other changes that become effective Sept. 23.
And in many cases, the attorneys said, that's without knowing all the final regulations of the law.
"Whether you like it or not, you have to understand this stuff if you're an employer," Namee said.
Every employer will be affected with the first health plan year beginning after Sept. 23. For the majority, that means Jan. 1, said Steven P. Smith; others link their health plan to the fiscal year.
Plans that can retain grandfathered status will be exempt from some provisions of the new law. But that requires maintaining the health plan that was in effect March 23, 2010, when the law was passed.
Changing an insurance carrier or changing coverage, even if saves employees money and adds benefits, means grandfathered status is lost, attorney Bradley Schlozman said.
He predicted that "very, very few" plans would have grandfathered status two years from now.
Hardman said many of his clients have told him they can't afford to keep the plans they have. He tells them not to worry: "It's not the end of the world if you're not able to maintain your grandfathered status."
Short of Medicare, Smith said, the governmental agency that has the most to do with health care is the Internal Revenue Service.
Given the added reporting requirements of the new health benefits law, he said, "I predict the IRS is going to be hiring."