09 May 2013

Will The New DOL Notice Confuse Your Employees?

By Elizabeth Borton

The Department of Labor has finally released model language to notify your employees about the state exchanges or “Marketplace” as it’s now called. The agency also set the print or electronic distribution deadline for October 1, 2013.

The model notice, entitled “New Health Insurance Marketplace Coverage Options and Your Health Coverage,” is pretty clearly written. In fact, from a laymen’s perspective, I’d say it makes the Marketplace sound like a great way to buy health care coverage. The notice describes it as “one-stop shopping to find and compare private health insurance options.” And goes on to say “you may also be eligible for a new kind of tax credit that lowers your monthly premium right away.”

Hey, sign me up!

The notice clearly states that if your employer’s coverage “meets certain standards, you will not be eligible for a tax credit through the Marketplace.” But then it says, “However, you may be eligible to a tax credit that lowers your monthly premium or a reduction in certain cost-sharing if your employer’s plan does not meet certain standards.”

Uh, so what are the standards? And does my company’s plan(s) meet those standards?

Obviously, the notice should not be released in a vacuum. The second part of the notice is a form, designed for employers to provide some information about the coverage they offer. But I don’t think that’s enough. Employees need to understand the repercussions of buying insurance in the Marketplace versus from your company. For some it may make sense, but for others it won’t.

I’ve been concerned about the upcoming health care reform communication tsunami for a while. I realize many companies are still deciding how they will respond to the 2014 requirements. But this is also the time to design your communications strategy to guide your employees through the changes. The DOL notice won’t confuse your employees as long as it’s supported with specific, “how’s it impact me” information from your organization. Remember, the main thing folks want to know is “what is this about, how’s it impact me and what do I need to do?”