United States: Stay On The Road To Cadillac Tax Planning

Your next top health care priority will be the Cadillac tax. Although the tax was recently delayed for two years, employers in all industries need to develop a strategy to comply and/or take action to mitigate their exposure.


The Cadillac tax, a 40% excise tax under the Affordable Care Act, applies to medical premiums exceeding premium thresholds and will significantly affect employers. For 2018, these thresholds were $10,200 (employee-only coverage) and $27,500 (family coverage), to be adjusted in future years. Based on current medical trends, many plans are expected to exceed these thresholds and generate significant revenue for the federal government. All health plans, whether self-insured or fully insured, will be affected. Since employers are responsible for paying the tax either directly or indirectly, they need to understand their plan's related risks.  

In December 2015, Congress passed a revision to the Cadillac tax as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016. The tax changed in two important ways:

  1. It was delayed from 2018 to 2020.
  2. It was changed to tax-deductible from non-tax-deductible.

The delay allows the government to propose regulations for comments and gives employers more time to mitigate their exposure.

Many people are speculating that the Cadillac tax will continue to be delayed or even be repealed. There's too much at risk to assume the Cadillac tax won't take effect, so employers who depend on that possibility and wait to do anything will probably be too late to mitigate the impact.

What you need to know

Mitigating Cadillac tax-related risk can take years. Although changing the plan design is easy, considering external factors is crucial. For example, the medical plan is a critical component of many employers' recruiting and retention strategy. In addition, plan design changes often shift more costs to employees, who will be upset about paying more out-of-pocket. Finally, if the plan is too expensive for employees, they may avoid medical care, leaving ailments undiagnosed and uncontrolled.

Some medical plans may already provide low-level benefits and still exceed the tax's thresholds, so cutting additional benefits may not be a solution. The tax is not necessarily imposed on a plan that has a high or luxurious benefit level but merely applied to the amount exceeding certain premium thresholds. Medical premiums are determined by multiple factors that are often beyond the employer's control, including plan design, employee demographics (age and sex), geographic location, claims experience and utilization. A plan with low-level benefits may still exceed the thresholds because it has poor claims experience (organ transplants, premature or multiple births, cancers, and so on). As a result, reducing exposure may require multiple actions.

What you need to do

To mitigate exposure, take these three steps:

  1. Develop a strategic plan.
  2. Identify challenges.
  3. Communicate with employees.

Develop a strategic plan: This requires you to determine how you will reduce premiums and exposure to the Cadillac tax. There are two approaches:

  1. Reduce/cut medical benefits -- Increase employee cost-sharing (deductibles, co-insurance and copays) and/or cut benefits (exclude coverage for vision, infertility, gastric bypass, and so on).
  2. Create healthy plan participants -- Encourage plan participants to live healthy lifestyles, which may lower long-term costs through wellness programs, screenings and so on.

Identify challenges: Changing a medical plan design can directly affect employees' morale, personal finances and health. Cutting benefits may be the easiest and quickest way to reduce premiums, but it can cause significant employee relations problems. A medical plan can be a critical component of an employer's total rewards strategy and a recruiting and retention tool, so cutting benefits may create a competitive disadvantage with peers and the marketplace.

Creating a culture of health through wellness programs, screenings and education can improve employees' long-term health and reduce the cost of a medical plan. But to change their behavior, employees must be engaged. In addition, realizing savings can take several years.  

Employers with unions must factor in collective bargaining agreements, which can lock in benefit levels and plan designs for several years. As a result, the Cadillac tax must be considered for any new contracts and clearly outline whether participants or employers are responsible for the tax, how the tax will be paid and how to reduce exposure. This creates a labor relations challenge since in most cases, plan benefits will be reduced and/or the burden for the tax may shifted to the union member.

Communicate with employees: Employees need to know how the Cadillac tax affects them and how the employer plans to reduce costs such as changing plan design, lowering benefits levels or instituting aggressive wellness programs. An employer who waits until the last minute — fall 2019 — may need to slash benefits or increase employee cost-sharing. If there is little to no communication, employees will be unhappy about changes.

The Cadillac tax will be a significant tax liability for employers and require careful planning to mitigate risk.  Now is the time to start involving stakeholders so that they understand the tax and the reasons for change. With a fully engaged workforce participating in wellness programs, employers can lower health care costs and mitigate their Cadillac tax exposure without compromising benefits. Communicating with employees helps them to understand — and even accept — why changes are being made.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.