Originally posted by EBA https://eba.benefitnews.com

2013 was a pinnacle year in health care with the opening of the Affordable Care Act’s health care exchanges. But what can we expect in 2014? EBA spoke with experts across the spectrum to find out.

1. Complying with the ACA

The Affordable Care Act will continue to have a lasting impact into 2014. With the employer mandate pushed off and the penalties delayed as well, brokers will spend most of 2014 making sure their clients are complaint for 2015, says Mark S. Gaunya, principal at Borislow Insurance.

2. Losing coverage

In addition to focusing on compliance in 2014, Gaunya believes that many people will be in for a big surprise on Jan. 1 when “millions wake up and can’t see their doctor.” Gaunya predicts that many people who had coverage will lose it — 110,000 alone in his home state of Massachusetts — and some won’t even realize it until they go to the doctor.

3. Health care eligibility issues

With the ACA and Windsor decision on DOMA, employment lawyer Keith R. McMurdy of Fox Rothschild LLP believes many plan sponsors in 2014 are going to have problems with plan eligibility definitions. “Lots of employers don’t really remember that changing eligibility and participation requirements requires an update of plan documents, revisions to SPDs and summaries of material modification,” he says. “I think that as the year progresses between litigation and EBSA audits we are going to see a lot of plans that have conflicting language over how they are being administered. “Plan sponsors that don’t do complete review of these eligibility rules are going to find themselves in a world of hurt,” he adds.

4. Uneven risk pool hurts carriers

Insurance carriers whose plans are sold through the exchanges will issue earnings reports much worse than average in 2014, predicts Thom Mangan, CEO of United Benefit Advisors, due to the failure to enroll the young and healthy. Mangan says that after that happens the federal government will offer “some financial assistance to insurance carriers but not enough to make them whole.”

5. A small rise in health care costs

In 2014, the medical cost trend is estimated to be 6.5% by PricewatehouseCoopers Health Research Institute — one full percentage point below 2013’s estimate. After accounting for benefit design changes, such as higher deductibles, the net growth rate will be 4.5% in 2014, pWc predicts.

6. A request to drop coverage

In 2014, individual employees will realize they can get individual health coverage for less than their employer’s group health plan, says Rick Lindquist, president of Zane Benefits Inc. “As a result, employees will start asking their employers to drop coverage, which will cause the small businesses health insurance market to implode in favor of defined contribution health benefits,” he says.