Federal Government Launches New Healthcare Reform Website for Employers

August 15th, 2013

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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.

 

Key Obamacare rule for business delayed for year

July 3rd, 2013

By BRETT NORMAN and JENNIFER HABERKORN |

The Obama administration is postponing the federal health care law’s insurance mandate for employers next year, in a major concession to the business community and lawmakers who have become increasingly vocal about the law’s potential to damage a slowly recovering economy.

The announcement doesn’t affect the main coverage tools in the law — the individual mandate and the new subsidized insurance markets. But it could boost the cost of the law if more people end up seeking subsidies instead of getting covered on the job.

The delay, revealed just as the administration was stepping up efforts to educate the public about enrollment this fall, is at least partial proof of what Republicans have been predicting for months: that the health law is way too complex to be ready to go live in 2014. And that’s a message that may well resonate all through next year – including the 2014 midterm elections.

Those GOP critiques picked up immediately.

“Obamacare costs too much and it isn’t working the way the administration promised,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said after Treasury announced the one-year delay. “And while the White House seems to slowly be admitting what Americans already know, and what I hear consistently in my travels around Kentucky regarding the regulatory burden on employers, the fact remains that Obamacare needs to be repealed and replaced with common-sense reforms that actually lower costs for Americans.”

Speaker John Boehner’s press secretary Brendan Buck tweeted simply: “Obamacare. Such a train wreck.”

“Absolutely thrilled by #ObamaCare delay,” Republican operative Brad Dayspring tweeted. “Will help #GOP candidates across the board in 2014. Debate will be a repeat of 2010.”

The Treasury Department, which is in charge of the employer mandate, said it recognized that the steps businesses have to take to show they were complying with the rules were complex and a burden. Treasury said it would try to streamline them over the next year.

There will be no penalties in 2014 for businesses that don’t cover workers. Most large businesses do cover their workers. Small businesses, with fewer than 50 workers, were already exempt from the rule.

The delay was announced as Washington was already emptying for the July 4 holiday. It comes in the shadow of a mounting pile of criticisms of the employer mandate. There’s been a push by some business groups and lawmakers so that only people workig 40 or more hours a week would be covered. The health law currently says 30 hours is full time, and some businesses and more recently, school districts, have complained that they would have to cut their employees hours to escape the mandate penalties.

The move is also likely to raise the prices tag of Obamacare by making more people eligible for subsidies, namely those whom employers would have covered under the threat of penalties under the law. Employers with 50 or more “full-time equivalent” employees were required under law to provide affordable insurance or else pay $2,000 per year penalty per employee.

The employer mandate’s penalties were expected to reduce the deficit by $5 billion in 2014, according to a Congressional Budget Office estimate published in February.