As healthcare reform continues to loom large on the horizon, many owners of small and medium-sized businesses are wondering how the changes will affect them on January 1, 2014. Designed to improve national access to healthcare coverage and medical treatment, the Affordable Care Act will allow Americans to obtain insurance through a new Health Insurance Marketplace. This Marketplace will be a comprehensive resource for “one-stop shopping.” Individuals and employees of small and medium-sized businesses will be able to compare options between private health insurance companies.
Along with this healthcare reform, the Department of Labor has recently issued an employer mandate to help clear up confusion and promote communication with employees. Many Americans are unfamiliar with how the Affordable Care Act will affect them directly or influence their ability to seek medical treatment. The Department of Labor has instructed that all corporations must provide their employees with a written notice that outlines details of how the healthcare reform will affect them. This can include, but is not limited to, informing the employee about the Marketplace, identifying employees that are eligible for premium tax credits, and acknowledging situations in which the employee loses employer contribution coverage to their health benefits plan.
Employer penalties will be enforced for owners of small and medium-sized businesses that fail to take appropriate notification steps regarding the Department of Labor mandate. Originally scheduled to roll out on March 1, 2013, the Department of Labor has changed the deadline with the hopes that employees will receive the information during later summer and fall months when it is due to influence them the most. This new timetable coincides with the open enrollment period for the Marketplace that begins October 1, 2013.
Small and medium-sized businesses that are affected by the employer mandate include those that employ more than one individual and are engaged in interstate commerce, the production goods, care of mentally or physically ill individuals; or work for schools or hospitals. This also includes all local, state, and federal government agencies. As of October 1, 2013, all employers will be required to provide this notice to new employees and offer notification to existing employees. The Department of Labor has provided an example of effective language and terminology to help communicate these changes appropriately. An example for companies that offer a health plan and those that do not offer a health plan can be found on the Department of Labor website.