Examining the New Health Care Law

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The problem is that it's not clear how to do that. Benefits experts who have studied the law agree that adding new employees or family members of current employees will not jeopardize grandfathered status. Beyond that, the law is silent, and the Department of Health and Human Services hasn't yet issued any guidance or regulations.

"There is a big question mark as to what actions risk losing grandfathered status," says Scott Macey, of counsel at Covington & Burling and former head of government relations at Aon Consulting. "Companies need to tread carefully in making changes until we have some guidance."

"This is bowing to the economic reality that a lot of young kids get out of school and don't get jobs, or don't have jobs with health care," says Jennifer Gimler Brady, a partner at Potter Anderson & Corroon.

The impact of that economic reality is reflected in the flurry of questions human resources departments are receiving from anxious parents of graduating seniors, wondering how soon they can get those children on their health plans. Some major insurance companies have announced they will allow parents with individual plans to cover graduating students now to avoid a break in coverage, but employers have the option of waiting for the next plan year. Even President Obama contributed to the confusion, mistakenly saying in an April speech that the extension of employer coverage to adult children starts this year.

At the same time, Zolandz points out there is "a lot of road ahead" before more controversial parts of the bill take effect, such as mandating individuals to have health care coverage and imposing penalties on employers who don't offer it.

With so much uncertainty, many benefits attorneys advise educating yourself so you can anticipate issues and lobby for changes on provisions that may negatively impact your business.

Senior Editor

Mary Swanton

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