Employees and executives in Chicago will in the near future experience automatic enrollment into health insurance as part of their employee benefits. The Department of Labor ("DOL") announced it will host a public forum to discuss implementation of the requirement of large employers to automatically enroll employees into one of the employers health benefit plans. EBSA News Release 3/14/2011. The forum will take place on April 8, 2011 from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Pursuant to § 1511 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 ("PPACA"), large employers (defined as those having more than 200 full-time employees) must automatically enroll employees into one of the employer's health benefit plans. This dovetails with PPACA's mandate on individuals purchasing health insurance. PPACA § 1501. Until DOL issues final regulations on the matter, employers will not have to comply with § 1511, but DOL has indicated it intends to issue final regulations by 2014, the same year the individual mandate becomes effective. EBSA Q&A3, Dec. 22, 2010.
This aspect of Health Care Reform has both potentially great benefits and drawbacks for employees. If you happened to have forgotten about open enrollment, or if you were overwhelmed with documents when you were hired such that you mistakenly did not elect health coverage, this might be great because you will not have to lose a year of health care coverage. However, if your employer provides various levels of coverage, such as an HMO and a PPO, the employer will choose what the default plan in which employees are automatically enrolled, subject to an opt-out. This may not be the level of coverage you wanted, so it still behooves you to make your own election. Also, perhaps upon being hired you were already covered by a spouse's health plan, you and upon automatic enrollment you may become covered under two plans. Suffice it to say, you will still be best off laboring over all those open enrollment forms and new hire packets.