What Small Businesses Need Before Oct. 1 to Prepare for Obamacare (Affordable Care Act)

With October 1 looming near, there is an incessant barrage of hype and partisan politics surrounding the Affordable Care Act.  A great deal of the confusion stems from the dynamic and constantly changing manner the government employees use to implement the program. It’s important to find out exactly how Obamacare affects your business and what you have to do to prepare. As the new healthcare law goes into effect, there are three important deadlines you should consider. The first of these deadlines, October 1, 2013, signals the opening of open enrollment for healthcare exchanges in every state. This deadline is important to small business owners regardless of whether they offer their employees health care coverage.

Affordable Care Act deadlines:

  • October 1, 2013-Health Insurance Marketplace begins accepting enrollment for coverage by individuals and employers. Individuals can visit healthcare.gov to find which coverage options are best suited for their needs. Employers can explore options available through the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP.) All employers are legally required to notify employees as to their coverage options and costs before October 1.
  • January 1, 2014-coverage begins as the law goes into effect. Originally, the ACA mandated that employers with 50 or more full-time employees must offer affordable health care coverage to their employees by this date. The government amended the provision by moving the deadline for the employer mandate to January 1, 2015.
  • March 31, 2014- Open enrollment closes.

What you must do by October 1st

Ready or not, every employer in the United States has to notify his or her employees about the Obamacare exchanges. You may think that The Affordable Health Care Act doesn’t apply to your company because you have fewer than 50 employees. Keep thinking that and you’re due for a nasty surprise after October 1. Any business that fails to comply with the law is subject to severe penalties. The government plans to punish failure with fines of up to $100 per day per employee. You must provide notification to employees hired after October 1, 2013 within 14 days after hiring. These requirements are enforced under the Department of Labor Fair Labor Standards Act.

The notification must clearly explain the Marketplace, the government’s healthcare exchange and describe the services they offer. Provide your employees with information on how to contact the exchange in your state and the federal healthcare exchange website. You must explain that your employees may be eligible for a premium tax credit under the plan if your lawyer’s share of total allowed costs for benefits is less than 60%. You must also notify your employees that purchasing a qualified health plan through an exchange may result in the loss of any employer contribution to health care plans.

Model notices

The Department of Labor provides downloadable forms and businesses may use to notify their employees about the healthcare exchanges. These model notices are for employers who offer health insurance and employers who do not. You can download them in PDF format from the Department of Labor website. Being prepared for the changes to come will make the transition easier for you and your employees. Visit the Department of Labor website and the Small Business Health Options Program website to find out more about your responsibilities and the options available for providing your employees with affordable health care. For specific questions, it’s always helpful to reach out to someone who has an online mph degree for expert advice on this topic as well.

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