Federal Government Launches New Healthcare Reform Website for Employers


The federal government has launched a new website for employers that addresses some common employer healthcare reform  questions.  The healthcare portion of the website allows an employer to  select the location of its headquarters, the number of employees it has, and  whether or not it will offer insurance to its employees in 2015.  Based on  these answers, a list of frequently asked questions pertaining to employers of  that size are generated.

These frequently asked questions contain links to a healthcare reform  timeline on the Department of Health and Human Services’ website,  as well as a link to a slide deck produced by the U.S. Small Business Administration which  provides more detail about the employer shared responsibility provisions under  IRS Code 4980H.  The employer reporting requirements under IRS Code 6055  and 6056 and, as a result, the assessment of penalties on employers were delayed  on July 2, 2013 by the Department of the Treasury and the Obama  Administration.  IRS Notice 2013-45 implements this delay.  The  website also contains a link to the U.S. Small Business Administration page  for employers with 50 or more employees.  There, employers can find  links to the Department of Labor model notices regarding coverage options  available through the Marketplaces, the employer shared responsibility proposed  regulations, SBC requirements, and reporting obligations, among other items.

While this information is helpful for employers who have not already  started preparing to meet the requirements of PPACA, employers should undertake  a deeper dive and analyze exactly how PPACA will impact an employer of their  size, location, and employee demographic.  Although more guidance is needed  from the Departments, the employer mandate proposed regulations, as well as  other regulations, provide a helpful starting place for this  analysis.  The regulations as they exist today do not answer many of  the questions and practical implications employers still face once the meaning  of the regulations is digested and employers begin putting systems in place in  preparation for compliance.  In particular, many employers with a part-time  or variable hour workforce currently have no reliable system in place that would  enable them to utilize the look-back measurement method safe harbor for  determining which part-time or variable hour employees may qualify for  benefits.  Ultimately, this requires tracking the hours of variable hour  employees over multiple overlapping cycles of time throughout the year.   The IRS Code 6055 and 6056 reporting requirements will also place a significant  burden on employers.  Employers close to the 50 employee threshold and  beyond should work closely with their benefits advisors and legal counsel  throughout the remainder of 2013 and 2014 to implement the internal mechanisms  that are likely to result in minimizing or avoiding penalties in 2015.