Have Obamacare and the I.R.S. Helped Solve a Problem for Forensic Economists?
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (more commonly known as ObamaCare) requires employers to report the aggregate cost of their employer-sponsored group health plan coverage on their employees’ W-2 form. The purpose of adding this information is to educate consumers of healthcare on the value of medical benefits provided by employers.
Forensic economists are taking note of this new, possible source of what is sometimes hard-to-get information on such employee (fringe) benefits. However, review of current IRS instructions pertaining to implementing this change reveals that employers have latitude about what benefits to include as well as how to calculate the employee-specific amounts. Although the amount reported on the W-2 statement should include both the employer’s and the employee’s payments for the health plan coverage, complexities and exceptions abound depending upon the individual circumstances of the employer and employee. Further, the I.R.S. publications make clear that changes in reporting are to be expected in future years.
Therefore, the prudent forensic economist would be wise to proceed cautiously if he/she intends to rely on the employee’s W-2 statement as a source of information on the cost of health care insurance coverage.