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John L. Barlament quoted in article “Employers Looking at ‘Skinny’ Health Plans to Counter Health Law’s Penalties”

Wall Street Journal

Following is an excerpt:

Now, some benefits administrators are pitching somewhat-less-skinny plans that they claim protect employers against the $3,000 penalty as well – by meeting the law’s standard of covering at least 60% of the cost of health care. Yet one such “minimum value plan” that is being sold to employers still lacked coverage for inpatient hospital treatments, procedures at ambulatory surgery centers or most maternity care, according to a document viewed by The Wall Street Journal

The plans are cheaper than coverage with more complete benefits. But they are a “better benefit offering” than the preventive-only skinny plans, and the employer is “shielded from both penalties,” says Rebecca McLaughlan, managing director at brokerage McGraw Wentworth, part of Marsh & McLennan Agency. Ms. McLaughlan says she has some clients who are moving forward with the minimum-value plans, which can offer other benefits such as doctor visits and prescription-drug coverage, but she is warning them about regulatory uncertainty surrounding them.

Lawyers say that federal regulators are likely to issue guidance that will say the minimum-value plans lacking hospital coverage do not meet the 60% coverage threshold, which could leave employers using them subject to the $3,000 penalty. “It’s likely that regulators will move against this type of plan and eliminate it as an option at some point in the future,” says John Barlament, an attorney at Quarles & Brady. Though the strategy “probably works” in the short term, it probably won’t within a year or so, he says.