Employers are expected to be taken to court for violations of the massive and complex law (ACA) in addition to numerous technical issues such as documentation of benefits and the interpretation of arcane provisions. And not all the rules of Obamacare have been worked out as yet. Crain’s Judy Messina observes that “No fewer than four federal agencies (the IRS, the Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services, and even the department of Housing and Urban Development) are currently writing hundreds of pages of regulations that will apply as health care reform is implemented over the next six years.”
This labyrinth of laws will be superimposed on existing laws such as ERISA statutes and anti-discrimination laws. Whenever new and complex laws are passed new obligations are created for employers and disputes are bound to follow. Companies that are not paying close attention will be at risk. Major law firms such as Proskauer are gearing up with specialized task forces in employee benefits, compensation, and Erisa litigation.
One likely area will be litigation over companies that try to manage the size of their workforce to avoid the play-or-pay mandate. Some large firms with more than 50 employees will have to pay a penalty if they don’t provide health care. But determining whether a business meets this criteria can be tricky, given the number of full-time and part-time workers one has and the calculations involved in determining part-time work. Small businesses are likely to be at greater risk in part because they don’t have large administrative staffs to keep track of the numerous changes and requirements. But Crain’s Messina reports that “even large businesses that self insure won’t be immune because they can’t offload responsibility for plan design and other decisions to insurance carriers. “