Health Care Reform Could End Limited Coverage Plans
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a sweeping health care reform law enacted earlier this year, could have implications for staffing firm employees as soon as this autumn. Beginning Sept. 23, the law bars group health plans from having annual dollar limits except as allowed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Annual dollar limits will be prohibited totally beginning in 2014. Unless the secretary permits an exception, some staffing firm employees could lose their health insurance coverage.
Historically, the number of nontraditional workers without health insurance has been highundefinedthe U.S. Department of Labor estimates 30% of part-time workers lack health coverage. However, about 1.4 million workers nationwide have coverage through group limited benefit plans with annual caps on benefits, often referred to as "mini-med" plans. Premiums for
these plans usually range from $20 to $30 per week, or $1,040 to $1,560 per year. Many of the individuals covered by these plans work for large employers on a part-time, seasonal, or temporary basis, or are waiting to become eligible for an employer's regular health plan. According to data from health insurance company Aetna, 19% of limited benefit plans are sponsored by the staffing industry. Unless Congress or the president acts, these individuals could lose that coverage and be unable to access subsidized coverage until 2014.
Throughout the health care debate, ASA worked with several members of the National Coalition of Benefits, an organization of companies and trade associations that represent service-sector employers of entry-level, seasonal, and subsidy-eligible workers. Recently, this group drafted a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary
Kathleen Sebelius and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis asking them to draft regulations that would allow employees covered by mini-med plans to remain covered until 2014, when state exchanges will be operating.
In the letter, the group says that the PPACA "directs the secretary to establish approved annual dollar limit rules. If these limits are too high or don't provide an exception for limited medical benefit plans, insurance coverage would abruptly end for covered employees and their families beginning later this year.... This would have the effect of undermining coverage for the 1.4 million citizens enrolled in group limited medical benefit plans as of the first plan year after Sept. 23, 2010."
The letter concludes, "By allowing employees and their families to remain in these plans for the time being, they will be able to transition to other health insurance when it becomes available without experiencing a loss of coverage. We ask that you consider temporarily excluding grandfathered group limited medical benefit plans from the annual benefit limit provision until other provisions of the PPACA increasing the availability of coverage (such as the tax credits through state exchanges) take effect in 2014." ASA and many of its members have signed the letter.
Next Tuesday, ASA will present the ASAPro
Webinar "Health Care ReformundefinedWhat Does the Law Mean for Staffing Firms and Their Clients?" Led by ASA senior vice president and general counsel Edward A. Lenz, Esq., and benefits law expert Alden Bianchi, Esq., this interactive program will cover such topics as the new insurance rules that apply to group health plans; the new requirement that employers offer health insurance coverage to their employees or pay penalties; and the question of whether staffing firms will be able to continue to offer "two-tier" health plans that provide lower benefit levels to their assigned employees.
Because of the importance of this issue, this Webinar is being made available at a special discounted price for ASA members: $89.95 (nonmembers pay $239). The Webinar will take place Tuesday, June 8, 3–4:30 p.m. Eastern time. For more information and to register, visit americanstaffing.net.