ACA Excise Tax—Is It Another Chain Saw?

Once I had an accountant tell me that his job was much more complicated and nuanced than my job in human resources. At the time, I begged to differ and was a bit insulted. And now, with all the various regulations, laws, statutes, rules and (fill in the blank), I feel as if being in the HR profession has become more like juggling fully operating chain saws, and someone keeps throwing another up into the air for us to catch.

As employers have fallen in line to comply with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), whether we like it or not is no longer relevant. We are juggling and moving our plan designs into compliance. The myriad of decisions and choices becomes murky as we consider how to remain competitive in the market for top talent while providing excellent benefits that meet the needs of our employees.

As Chief Human Resources Officer for Pomona College in Claremont, California, I have been studying the strategies and philosophies we have in place for our benefits structure. With our partners at the other Claremont Colleges, we offer choice and variety in our medical benefits. At the same time, we have been watching nervously as health care premiums continue to increase year after year, and we recently carried out a very important survey of faculty and staff regarding their benefits.

Although private colleges and universities are nonprofit organizations, some consider us able to just increase tuition to cover rising costs. This simply is not true in our budget-driven environment. Part of the concern looming ahead for us is the unknown costs that will be headed our way once the ACA excise tax slides into place. How will we cover the costs of our generous sponsored medical coverages? Do we pass along the increases to our faculty and staff, strip our benefit plan designs to lower the premiums, or defund a campus program or two to comply? These questions and many others remain unanswered now that implementation of the excise tax has been delayed a couple of years. We are having these philosophical discussions on campus now, along with learning, listening and being mindfully open to new ideas.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), of which I am a member, has strongly encouraged Congress to fully repeal the excise tax. One strategy Congress should consider to reduce health care costs and preserve Americans’ access to medical care is medical liability reform. SHRM supports the Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare Act (HEALTH Act, H.R. 4771). The HEALTH Act would strike a balance between protecting patients harmed by medical malpractice and preventing unnecessary and costly litigation that contributes to rising health care costs.

I hope my fellow HR professionals will join with me in contacting lawmakers in support of H.R. 4771. I also encourage you to go one step further and emphasize the preservation of the tax treatment of employer-sponsored health care benefits. It’s not too late before another chain saw is tossed in our direction.


Originally posted on the SHRM Policy Action Center Blog.



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