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Open Enrollment: What Small Businesses Need to Know About the Affordable Care Act

May 28th, 2017 by Max Soni

Here’s a great article from DisplayOverStock.com. We felt this article was super informative. While both employees and small business owners might be watching to find out what Congress might do with the Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the law remains in effect. This means that small business owners should prepare as if the law will still be in place when Nov. 1 and the open enrollment period roll around.

The open enrollment period for 2018 will begin on Nov. 1, which is the time period during which people can sign up for health care coverage through the upcoming year. For most companies, the open enrollment period for the ACA will occur simultaneously with those involved with other employer-sponsored benefits, meaning workers throughout the nation will be selecting the plans that they wish to sign up for.

Small business owners may find it difficult to juggle all of the tasks that they will have to complete, including tracking and documenting hours, communicating about the benefits plans to their employees and ensuring that they comply with federal regulations simultaneously. The following information might help to provide some guidance.

Important information about the ACA

While most employers offer more than health insurance in their benefits packages, the ACA makes health care one of the most important types of benefits to consider. If you fail to comply, you could end up facing substantial fines. Here are some areas to watch.

Failing to file the required 1095-B and 1095-C forms on time may result in fines of as much as $250 per person per day. It’s important that you accurately track your employees’ hours so that you understand how many of your employees are full-time workers under the ACA. If your business is one that is required to offer health insurance to your employees but it does not, your business may be fined $2,000 per year per full-time worker beyond the first 30 employees. If the insurance that you offer is not considered to be affordable, your business may be fined $3,000 for every employee who seeks coverage on the individual marketplace as a result. If your insurance costs more than 9.5 percent of a worker’s annual household income, it is considered to be unaffordable.

Employers that have between 50 to 100 full-time employees are required to offer health insurance that is affordable to their workers. Companies that have 50 or fewer workers are exempt from having to offer health care benefits to their workers. If your small business does choose to offer insurance, your plan must meet the ACA’s minimum essential coverage provisions. If your business has fewer than 25 workers who earn $50,000 or less each year, you may be able to qualify for the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit. This credit covers up to half of the contributions you make to your employees’ premium costs as long as you use the Small Business Health Options Program Marketplace, or SHOP.

If you own several small businesses that each have fewer than 50 workers, you will need to figure out whether your total workforce makes you a midsize or large employer. If it does, you will need to comply with the insurance coverage, reporting and measurement laws.

Choosing the plans for your company

Make certain to shop around because your business needs may differ from those of others. Here’s some things to consider as you are reviewing benefits plans.

Group plans or individual/family plans?

Group plans are the traditional way that employers provide their employees with health care insurance. Individual or family health insurance coverage may help employees to secure more affordable and tailored coverage that is based on their needs. These plans may also save you a substantial amount of time and expense. The individual or family plans may also help you to access government subsidies that might lower your coverage costs by as much as 70 percent.

What are the costs?

It’s very important to consider how much the total cost will be for the health care benefits. If your employees are offered plans that are too costly, you might face big fines.

Talk to your employees

Talk to your employees about their preferences or needs before you decide on a plan. You can do this by having meetings about employee benefits on a quarterly basis. Employees may feel more empowered when they have a voice in the choices that you make for them. After you have chosen a plan, communicate what benefits are included in it using clear language.

For now, plan to still comply with the ACA, but keep a watch on Congress. If the House and Senate are able to come to an agreement for a new health care law, it will be important for you to learn about what its requirements might be and then communicate those to your staff.

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