Most Human Resources professionals have been through a benefits open enrollment season at some point in their career. Many have presented at numerous open enrollment meetings to explain to employees what their benefits options are.
Employees always have more questions about their health benefits during these meetings than HR has thought about in advance. And this is particularly true when a company is changing insurance carriers or making substantial revisions to what is covered or to the costs to employees.
HR can never anticipate every nuance or issue that might apply to a particular employee’s situation, even though those who present at open enrollment meetings have usually been involved in the benefit plan design and/or have had substantial involvement in negotiating plan terms with their carriers.
Pity the poor “navigators” who will have to explain Obamacare to the millions of people who will need to enroll through the healthcare exchanges so they do not incur a penalty (which the Supreme Court called a “tax”) for failing to have insurance come January 1, 2014.
According to Amy Schatz in the Wall Street Journal on August 7, 2013,
“Grants to hire and train the workers aren’t expected to be released for another two weeks for the 34 states where the federal government is running all or part of the marketplaces, which will offer insurance to those who don’t get it on the job or from Medicare or Medicaid. That leaves just 32 business days to hire and train thousands of helpers in these states.”
As an HR professional, would you want to hire and train people in the intricacies of enrolling millions of people in plans that are newly designed – and maybe still in design – using a new online enrollment system? All in thirty-two days?
What are the odds of being able to hire “navigators” who can explain the enrollment system to enrollees who may never have used a computer before? Or who can explain the terms “co-pay” and “third-tier drugs” to people who have never had health insurance before?
HHS had better hope that the scripts written for their new hires are well-written. But if the scripts are anything like the HHS regulations, the system is doomed from the beginning.
Or perhaps the Administration will rewrite the Affordable Care Act to delay implementation of the individual mandate until 2015, as it has the business mandate.
What do you think the impact of the Affordable Care Act will be on your organization, as of January 2014?