I went to the Society for Human Resource Management’s annual conference in Las Vegas this past week with one very specific goal: Get a feel for what HR professionals are excited and worried about in the benefits space, especially regarding health care and the 2020 election.
Tracy Watts, senior partner at Mercer, began here health care presentation with her “favorite quote from the president”:
This obviously got a lot of laughs from the audience of HR professionals.
Watts’ main message to employers in the course of her session was that employers, who insure 54 percent of the American population, have a vital role in helping to shape the future of the country’s health care. She cited that employers collectively spend about $668 billion annually on health benefits to cover employees and their dependents. “[Employers] have a bigger stake in this than anybody,” she said.
She also listed the health-related issues that different governing bodies can address and the ones that they’ve already begun to address. For example, the Trump administration has the ability to address HSA guidance, mental health parity, drug prices, HRA guidance and ACA Section 1557 nondiscrimination, and it’s currently addressing the latter three. Meanwhile, Congress has the ability to address the Affordable Care Act employer mandate, HSA reforms, drug prices, the ACA Cadillac tax and out-of-network “surprise” medial bills, and it’s currently addressing the latter three.
My question for employers: What power do you have to impact the health care environment? How are you currently utilizing that power? Where is there still room for improvement?
This session also gave me the opportunity to overhear gossip from the audience about the latest developments in the benefits space. For example, a major piece of health care-related breaking news had just happened in the past 24 hours: President Donald Trump announced his “Executive Order on Improving Price and Quality Transparency in American Healthcare to Put Patients First.”.
Meanwhile, more major changes were happening on the state level. California had just voted to reintroduce the individual mandate for health insurance. Also, a few women around me were expressing frustration about how difficult it is to keep up with what’s happening on the state level in the paid sick leave and paid family leave areas. They expressed exhaustion at dealing with “the nuance of state laws.”
Overall, the 2019 conference meant many HR folk were feeling confused and overwhelmed by the massive regulatory changes happening (or likely to happen) in the benefits space.
Also watch: Tracy Watts on the Executive Order and its Implications for Employers:
More 2019 SHRM Conference Coverage: