HighRoads Executives Comment on New Proposed HHS Regulations for Employee Health Care Benefits Communication

BOSTON--()--HighRoads, an industry leader in benefits management and ERISA compliance, whose core business is Fortune 500 self-funded employers, today said its clients are concerned that proposed new federal rules on employee benefits communication may cause greater financial stress on businesses by requiring considerable, additional administrative work in order to be in compliance.

Present guidelines call for SPDs (Summary Plan Descriptions) as the required document of communication to employees regarding their health plan coverage. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is proposing a Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) – that would create literally thousands of new summary documents, and to some extent, be duplicative of SPDs.

"At the outset, HighRoads believes the three agencies [Health and Human Services, Treasury and Labor] deserve credit for acknowledging the potential for duplication with the statutory requirements in the Affordable Care Act [ACA] and the existing requirements of federal law for large employers. In addition, we appreciate that the agencies are specifically seeking comment on areas of the rule where there is a potential for regulatory overkill,” said Eric Parmenter, Vice President, Consulting, HighRoads.

“We know that Congress clearly intended the SBC be a meaningful document for employees. Our clients realize the need for optimum clarity in communicating health care benefit information but they are concerned about the additional administrative burden, and financial cost, that may result in implementing the new summaries,” Parmenter added.

“HighRoads looks forward to commenting on the rule during the public comment period and working with the agencies to find the right solution for both employees and their employers,” said Tom Barker, attorney at Foley Hoag, and former HHS general counsel. Barker is on retainer to HighRoads to analyze all regulations under the Affordable Care Act. "We look forward to reviewing this important rule in greater detail and have been looking forward to seeing it. We have some initial concerns that this rule is duplicative for those with employer-based insurance coverage, who already have strong protections under federal law.”

Kim Buckey, SPD Practice Lead, at HighRoads, sees some potential for positive results after the regulations take effect currently planned for March 2012. “These new regulations represent an important step forward in setting the standard for simple, clear communications about health plans. While the SBCs are considered a supplement to SPDs, I see them as an important step in improving the overall quality of SPDs. If the SBC is incorporated into the SPD itself—and I think it should be—the rest of the SPD will need to be rewritten to the same standard of clarity and readability. Since the SBC is so comprehensive, it can replace much of the content typically found in the SPD. And, the uniform definitions proposed by the regulations can either replace any existing “Glossary” section, or be incorporated by reference, further shortening the SPD itself. Anything that encourages employees to pick up their SPD is a good thing,” said Buckey.

About HighRoads

The world’s leading employers choose HighRoads to gain complete control over their health care costs and compliance. With HighRoads’ service, employers have online access to benefits plan information and pricing, competitive benefits benchmarks, and complete benefits supply chain management. The privately-held company is headquartered in Woburn, MA. For more information, visit www.HighRoads.com.

Contacts

HighRoads Company Contact:
Petra Marino, 781-503-4031
pmarino@highroads.com
or
HighRoads Media Contact:
Erin Jones, 704-664-2170
erinj@Spiralgroup.com

Release Summary

HighRoads today said its clients are concerned that proposed new federal rules on employee benefits communication may cause greater financial stress on businesses.

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Contacts

HighRoads Company Contact:
Petra Marino, 781-503-4031
pmarino@highroads.com
or
HighRoads Media Contact:
Erin Jones, 704-664-2170
erinj@Spiralgroup.com