I have a coworker — who shall remain nameless — who’s quite fond of celebrating half-birthdays. Until I met him/her, I’d never even heard of them. But apparently, it’s the date six months after your actual birthday.
Absurd, I know. Which is why he/she shall remain nameless.
In the case of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which marked its half-birthday a couple weeks ago on Sept. 23, the occasion was both absurd and awful. To my eye, six months after President Obama signed the landmark health care reform legislation, there is nothing to celebrate.
A quick scan of where we stand:
* Employers are unhappy.
As if costs weren’t high enough, recent Mercer data show that reform is expected to tack on an average 2.3% to employers’ 2011 costs. Employers also predict their costs would rise by a total of 10.1%, if they made no cost-saving changes.
In a recent podcast I did with EBN’s 2010 Benny Award winners, one honoree mentioned that her company’s entire cost increase for 2011 was attributable to health care reform compliance. Good grief! I thought reform was supposed to make costs go down … right, Mr. President?
And while the majority of employers in a separate Mercer poll this spring said they’re not considering dropping health benefits, a telling 14.1% strongly believe their organizations would be better off dropping benefits.
"For employers hoping that health care reform would relieve their crushing health care burdens, PPACA is a bitter disappointment," write Stephen Harris, Eric Keller and Ethan Lipsig, in a client alert for law firm Hastings, Janofsky & Walker, LLP. "The only groups that PPACA materially benefits are the uninsured, who have been given a likely budget-busting entitlement, and the legions of bureaucrats who will be assured of employment for decades to come issuing PPACA regulations and pursuing enforcement actions."
* Employees are unhappy.
Unless they have 25-year-old unemployed triplets, employees aren’t exactly loving PPACA either. An EBN report on reform cited data from J.D. Power and Associates’ annual health plan satisfaction report, which revealed 11% of health plan members say reform will result in the loss of their current coverage and 40% of health plan members say their health care coverage will be worse as a result of reform, while just 9% say it will be better.
* No one knows what they’re doing.
The same J.D. Power survey shows that only 10% of health plan members say they completely understand health care reform, while 57% say they partially understand it. More than one-fourth of members say they don't understand the reforms at all.
And let’s be honest: Employers aren’t doing much better. Of course, the government isn’t helping matters any.
In a keynote session at EBN’s Benefits Forum & Expo, speaker Kay Curling, SVP of human resources at Salient Federal Inc., confessed she had the unfortunate timing of having an Oct. 1 renewal, and thus having to comply with many of PPACA’s regulations now, rather than in January or beyond like many of you. She vented her frustration with federal agencies on their lack of clarity regarding compliance.
"I’ve contacted the Department of Labor directly about some of the issues we’re having, and couldn’t get direct answers,” Curling said. “It’s hard to comply with something when you can’t get direct guidance on how to comply."
Well, that’s just great, isn’t it?
So, happy half-birthday, PPACA. Just like a normal six-month-old, you’re keeping people up at night and spitting up all over everything.
Offer your own half-hearted half-birthday wishes to PPACA in the comments.
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