|Lance Shnider is confident Obamacare regulators knew exactly what they were doing when they created an online calculator that gives a green light to new employer coverage without hospital benefits.|
“There’s not a glitch in this system,” said Shnider, president of Voluntary Benefits Agency, an Ohio firm working with some 100 employers to implement such plans. “This is the way the calculator was designed.”
Timothy Jost is pretty sure the whole thing was a mistake.
“There’s got to be a problem with the calculator,” said Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University and health-benefits authority. Letting employers avoid health-law penalties by offering plans without hospital benefits “is certainly not what Congress intended,” he said.
As companies prepare to offer medical coverage for 2015, debate has grown over government software that critics say can trap workers in inadequate plans while barring them from subsidies to buy fuller coverage on their own.
At the center of contention is the calculator — an online spreadsheet to certify whether plans meet the Affordable Care Act’s toughest standard for large employers, the “minimum value” test for adequate benefits.
The software is used by large, self-insured employers that pay their own medical claims but often outsource the plan design and administration. Offering a...