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Benefit Execs Say Supreme Court Will Strike Down Individual Mandate

Some 66 percent of the respondents' predictions about the fate of the mandate reflect what they heard the justices say during oral arguments, says one expert.

June 7, 2012
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A majority of benefit professionals responding to a new survey believe the Supreme Court will strike down the health care reform law's individual mandate, but will let the broader law stand.

Sixty-six percent of benefit managers, multiemployer plan trustees and other benefit executives responding to a survey conducted last month by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans in Brookfield, Wisconsin, said they believe the high court will overturn the individual mandate. That mandate, effective on Jan. 1, 2014, will require most Americans to enroll in a qualified health care plan or pay a financial penalty.

Just 15 percent thought the full Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act would be overturned, while 19 percent said the justices will leave the 2010 law intact.

It isn't surprising that such a high percentage of benefit executives predict that the individual mandate will be overturned, International Foundation CEO Michael Wilson said.

The respondents' predictions about the fate of the mandate reflect what they heard the justices say during oral arguments, Wilson said. "The justices asked some very tough questions," he said.

While a Supreme Court ruling is widely expected by the end of June, 45 percent of respondents are taking a wait-and-see attitude, while just over one-quarter said they have had general discussions about the possible impact of the ruling on their organizations and 14 percent have had general discussions with plan advisers about possible scenarios and actions.

"They (benefit professionals) have a full plate. They have to wait and see," Wilson said.

If the full law is overturned, 59 percent of respondents said employees would want Congress to pass legislation reinstating a reform law provision that requires employers to extend group health care coverage to employees' adult children up to age 26.

Twenty-two percent of respondents also backed congressional action to reinstate the age 26 coverage extension if the law is overturned.

The age 26 coverage provision has had a big positive impact for employees, with only a modest cost increase for employers, Wilson said.

Last year, the Department of Health and Human Services reported that 2.5 million young adults gained coverage due to the age 26 coverage mandate, with the percentage of individuals 19 through 25 years old insured rising to 72.7 percent, up from 64.4 percent in 2010.

The survey was conducted in May and 1,027 individuals responded.

Jerry Geisel writes for Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, email editors@workforce.com.

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