SAN DIEGO—If you’re like many of your employees, you probably received a hysterical e-mail warning of a new tax on health benefits. Even if you didn’t, you may have received a call from employees asking if the rumor is true. The rumor, by the way, is false, but might be rooted in the fact that beginning in 2012, employers must start reporting the value of health benefits on employees’ W-2s. (The first-year reporting requirement is for calendar year 2011.)
It is just one of the many outlandish myths that began circulating during the debates over health care reform. Employers can play an important role in helping their stakeholders, including current workers and retirees, separate fact from fiction, said health care analyst and actuary Anne Crumlish of Hewitt Associates in Atlanta, Ga.
Speaking June 29, 2010, at the Society for Human Resource Management’s 62nd Annual Conference & Exposition here, Crumlish warned that employees were being bombarded with inappropriate, and oftentimes erroneous, news about how they would be affected by changes. Fact is, the impact of health care reform depends on the changes individual employers make. Thus it is incumbent on employers, many of whom will be implementing portions of health care reform over the next several years, to keep employees abreast of the changes they are making.
While many workers fret that cost increases linked to health care reform will prompt their employers to quit offering health benefits altogether, Crumlish suggested such concerns are overblown.
“We don’t expect to see a massive exodus,” she said. The same, however, may not be true for those companies that provide health benefits to retirees. Her firm’s research suggests that 70 percent of employers “already are planning a retiree strategy review,” she said.Rita Zeidner is a senior writer for HR Magazine.