Puget Sound Business Journal by Valerie Bauman –
February 5, 2013:
File this in the boring-but-important category.
Many employers may not realize it, but they recently received an important extension on a new requirement under the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA). They now have more time to inform employees about changes in health-care coverage related to the introduction of state health exchanges.
Employers originally had until March 1 to notify employees about their company’s coverage plans and about the health plans available through exchanges like Washington’s Healthplanfinder.
Now the U.S. Department of Labor has pushed the timing back – probably to late summer or early fall – because regulations and details on the exchange offerings aren’t yet available. Labor officials haven’t set a new deadline.
The requirement is an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act, and an element of the Affordable Care Act, the health-care reform law often called Obamacare.
State exchanges are required to have an online marketplace up and running by Oct. 1 for consumers and small business owners to start shopping for coverage options that would take effect in January 2014. In the meantime, it would have been difficult – impossible even – for employers to provide the most basic information to their workers as required.
The notice, whenever it goes out, must include detailed information, including:
– Services the exchange offers and contact information for the exchange.
– Information about the features employees are eligible for, such as premium tax credits or cost-sharing reductions.
– Language explaining that employees could lose employer contributions toward health coverage if they choose to purchase coverage through the exchange.
All of this means that employers need to make some key decisions about the coverage they will extend to employees before the notices go out. That’s impossible until basic elements of the exchange are in place – for example, what the state’s definition of essential health benefits will be, and what offerings will be available at different tiers of coverage.
No matter the size of your business, all employers will be required to provide this notification. Even to employees who aren’t eligible for benefits.