Topic of Health Care Reform causes confusion, frustration

There are three little words in the English language that can cause hearts to flutter, pulses to quicken and normally even-keeled individuals to lose all control of their emotions -- health care reform.

Just the mere mention of those three little words has many old-school readers at this point wadding up their newspapers and throwing them across the kitchen table while many online subscribers now are screaming at their computer screens. Since this is a family newspaper, we can't actually print what those subscribers are screaming.

But for others, health care reform is a step in the direction of controlling health care costs long-term while positively addressing various issues in an industry that accounts for nearly 18 percent of our country's gross domestic product.

We will leave the politics of whether it is a step in the right or wrong direction for others to debate. OK, those of you who know me know that I, occasionally, will dip into politics, and health care reform is no different. But I promise to do so only to provide perspective on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

We are teaming here with the Citizen newspapers to offer a series on the specifics of PPACA, or what many, affectionately and some not so affectionately, refer to as Obamacare. Our goal over the next few weeks is to inform you of the various aspects of the bill that was signed into law on March 23, 2010 and the impact the law will have on individuals and employers.

Considering the bill weighed in at well over 2,000 pages and taking into account all the subsequent rules, regulations and notices that have been issued by the likes of the IRS, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Department of Labor, the Treasury Department and the White House, just to name a few, there is a lot to cover. Keep in mind, more rules, regulations and notices are on the way as PPACA is sorted out by all those involved.

The source of a great deal of the frustration clients and others have with the law is the unknown. The law tells us what must be done, but we rely on the various government agencies to tell us how it must be done. And remember, the Supreme Court of the United States did tell us it must be done. If the phrase "the devil is in the details" ever applied to a situation, it is this one and in more ways than one.

While many rules and regulations have been issued, there are scores more to follow. We can expect more delayed deadlines and additional clarifications as the law continues to evolve.

For example, we have known for quite some time that employers by mandate were to issue to their employees information about state health exchanges by March 1. Exchanges are scheduled to be online by Oct. 1. Many people knew the March 1 deadline date was an impossible target to hit since Georgia, like other states, has not adopted or rolled out the exchanges. But the government seemed to press onward.

That is until the Department of Labor recently issued an FAQ stating the deadline for notices to the employees has been pushed out to late summer or early fall 2013. The DOL stated the delayed notice date should better coordinate with open enrollment for the exchanges.

Another aspect of the law that has caused a great deal of frustration for employers is the W-2 issue. Under PPACA, employers are required to report the cost of employer-provided health care coverage on each employee's W-2 in Box 12, code DD.

Like many aspects of the law, confusion reigned as employers and their advisors scrambled for clarification and direction assuming this applied to all employers. The IRS finally issued Notice 2010-69 which made this requirement optional for all employers for the 2011 W-2s (those distributed to employees in January 2012).

The IRS provided "further relief" for smaller employers (those filing fewer than 250 W-2s) by making this requirement optional for them for 2012 (W-2s typically distributed in January 2013). If your employer issues more than 250 W-2s for the prior calendar year, the employer is required to include this information on your W-2 at this time.

We can, and will, debate the real reason behind the W-2 reporting and the various other aspects of the law. Over the next few weeks we will expand on these topics while focusing our emphasis on the mandates applicable in 2013 and those to come in 2014.

When and where appropriate we will review certain aspects of the law that already are in place since the law's passage in 2010 while offering some insight and experience we've encountered with PPACA and those individuals and employers who are dealing with the law's implementation.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me at twilson@nfp.com. I'd be happy to answer your questions and hear your comments. Maybe those will even spark a column idea.

Tony L. Wilson is a principal with NUVISION Financial Corporation based in Conyers. NUVISION is a subsidiary of National Financial Partners Corp., which provides benefits solutions for companies.