2:30 HR Meeting - A Look at the Effects of Obamacare

Today our corporate human resources manager came in to give us the yearly presentation on our healthcare insurance. Obviously, this year it was supposed to be more interesting since the passage of the new healthcare legislation in March. It did not fail to disappoint.

My company has a good health benefits package. I don’t have any problems with the features or administration. That is the background. Now for the news. The good news is that our plan is not much different from last year. Because our health plan has not changed significantly, it was given grandfather status and is unaffected by the new health care laws…this year. Our HR manager told us that if we make significant changes to our plan we lose that grandfather status and would become subject to the federal law. Also, they are still unsure of what the requirements will be in future years. We may lose our status in the future. We were also given a number of other tidbits that I feverishly took notes on.

  • By 2014, each state will have established a health exchange that can be accessed and used like Travelocity. I’m not really sure what that means, but I started imagining the gnome in a lab coat and stethoscope.
  • While it’s been in the news that a person under the age of 26 can be covered under their parents, I was not aware that it doesn’t matter if the person is married and living away from home. They still get to mooch….I mean be covered under their parents’ plan.
  • Over the counter drugs will no longer be covered by a flexible spending account.
  • Our healthcare benefits will be listed on our 2012 W-2 forms. It is believed that this sets us up to be taxed on our healthcare benefits in the future (at least not in 2011).
  • Strange but true (at least I thought so)…nursing mothers in the workplace (huh?) must have a place to nurse provided for them by their employer that is not a bathroom.
  • Our maximum contribution to our flexible spending accounts for medication will be decreased from $8,000 to $2,500 in 2012. This means that we will need to budget better on our own for medication.

We were told one more thing that we found to be the most shocking. We were told that our existing healthcare plan costs our company more than the fine imposed by Obamacare if they don’t comply. That’s right, the company is imposing more cost on itself and has every incentive to drop us all and let us go on the government roles. Why is our company keeping the plan then? They are keeping it because A) they were already going to pay the costs if Obamacare did not pass, and B) they realized that it was better for morale to keep us employees on a plan we like.

Our HR manager kept stressing that there was a great deal of uncertainty around the effects of Obamacare, but what they did understand was that every company’s costs were going up.  What we all realized as we walked out of the conference room was that eventually the costs were going to outweigh the goodwill of the company.