Small Business Under Obamacare
Effective today, there is a change in the healthcare system of the United States of America, forcing government into the once private health care industry through the creation of government exchanges in which people, whether or not employed, must obtain government-mandated health insurance to avoid paying a fine. The Affordable Care Act (ACA, commonly referred to as Obamacare) not only places a burden on the American people, but also on small and medium businesses (SMB) that employ the majority of Americans. While most of Obamacare regulation does not apply to small businesses with fifty or less employees, small business owners need to be aware of the following:
Enrollment in Obamacare
Effective today, October 1, 2013, employers will be able to enroll their employees in coverage taking effect on January 1, 2014. The commencement of online enrollment was changed to November 1, 2013, a few days ago after what has been a string of delays, mistakes and problems implementing the massive Obamacare infrastructure. This extra time will allow decision makers still wondering how to comply with the Obamacare until November 1, 2013, to prepare for the newest burden upon their businesses.
Required Notification of Obamacare to Employees
Under the Affordable Care Act, all employers (even those with fifty or less employees) are required by law to notify employees about Obamacare and the changes it brings. Employers may notify their employees via letter or email (there is no fine imposed on a business if it does not send a letter, but it is “highly recommended”). To help employers with this process, the Department of Labor has provided two models that businesses may use as a guide when constructing either of the types of notices. If a business chooses to notify employees via email, the notices must meet the standards regarding electronic communication as provided by the Department of Labor (e.g., employers should be sure that each employee actually receives the email, utilizing tools such as undelivered email notifications or return-receipts). However, businesses may implement their own way for each employee to confirm that she or he received the email. Moreover, employers must heed employee confidentiality and also inform each employee of her or his right to request a paper document if desired.
SHOP Options for 50 Employees or Less
Small businesses with fifty employees or less who wish to offer insurance qualify for the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) to compare Obamacare insurance options or renew a pre-Obamacare health insurance plan in the months of November or December to bypass Obamacare for another year.
Multi-State Businesses May Choose SHOP Exchange
Small businesses that wish to offer insurance and that operate in more than one state may choose between different exchanges in the states in which they operate. For example, employers may offer their employees coverage through the SHOP exchange affiliated with the state in which the business is located, regardless of where the employee lives, or, may offer coverage through the SHOP exchange affiliated with the state in which the employee lives if there is a less expensive option available.
Businesses that Grow Beyond 50 Employees
Small businesses that qualify for insurance through SHOP exchanges and voluntarily provide health insurance but grow beyond fifty employees in the same year are able to continue their participation in the SHOP exchange regardless of the growth for the remainder of that year, after which they will be subjected to Obamacare.