by Michelle Andrews
August 5, 2014
Newly hired employees who don't sign up for health insurance on the job could have it done for them under a health law provision that may take effect as early as next year.
But the controversial provision is raising questions: Does automatic enrollment help employees help themselves, or does it force them into coverage they don't want and may not need? A group of employers, many of them retail and hospitality businesses, want the provisions repealed, but some health policy researchers say the practice has advantages and is consistent with the aims of the health law.
Under the law, companies with more than 200 full-time workers have to enroll new, full-time employees in one of the company health plans unless the employee chooses not to join. The Department of Labor has said that employers aren't required to comply until the agency issues regulations spelling out how to do so. The department delayed its initial plan to issue regulations by 2014 and hasn't yet said when regulations will be issued. Industry experts are split on when to expect those rules; some think they could take effect in 2015, while others say that's unlikely.
Employees pay directly for their health insurance in "defined contribution" plans.
When the health law was being debated, some said they worried it would prompt many employers to stop offering subsidized health plans to their workers; the automatic enrollment provision was thought to be one way to prevent erosion into the health insurance exchanges.
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