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Obamacare Is Upon Us

Are you ready? Our checklist will make sure you capture every subsidy and avoid every pitfall.
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This article is the first installment of an eight-part series on how to cope with the implementation of Obamacare. Part two: Get an Accurate Head Count

The waiting is over. It is time to get serious about Obamacare.

Though the much-feared employer mandate has been postponed until 2015, several other provisions of the Affordable Care Act take effect in January. One benefit of the long lead-up to the full implementation of the ACA is that employers, policy wonks, benefits advisers, and lawyers have had a lot of time to pick apart the law’s dense tangle of rules. In the process, these experts have come up with a number of strategies and workarounds to help you comply with the letter of the new law--and in some cases recalibrate your health care strategy in ways that can benefit both your employees and your bottom line.

How much of a headache will this phase of Obamacare be? Good question. “At least in concept, it raises the cost of hiring,” says Dane Stangler, director of research and policy at the Kauffman Foundation. “On the other hand, remember that 95 percent of American businesses have fewer than 25 employees”--meaning they are exempt from most of the ACA’s provisions. In fact, many of those small businesses could qualify for tax breaks.

Inc. has identified eight steps to consider. Here's the first. 

Notify Your Employees

By October 1, 2013, every business with at least one employee and $500,000 in yearly revenue should have given employees a written Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA, Exchange Notice, informing them that: 1. health exchanges are open, and 2. even if they have coverage through work, they may be able to get insurance more cheaply on the exchange, thanks to potential premium and cost-sharing subsidies. (You can download a sample notice at the Department of Labor’s website.)

If you missed the deadline, don’t worry. In September, the Labor Department announced that laggards will not be penalized. But do it anyway, says Sheldon Blumling, an employment benefits attorney at Fisher & Phillips in Irvine, California. “The exchange notice does two things,” Blumling says. “It informs employees about the exchange and where to get information, but it also provides information about any coverage the employer offers.” You might be perfectly happy for employees to go out and get coverage on an exchange. “But if you are offering what the ACA considers affordable, minimum-value coverage,” says Blumling, “it behooves you to make sure your employees understand that they’re not eligible for a subsidy. It’s an employee relations issue.”

The Small Business Guide to Obamacare
Part One: How to Notify Your Employees
Part Two: Get an Accurate Head Count
Part Three: Determine Whether You Should Offer Coverage At All
Part Four: Decide Where to Shop for a Plan
Part Five: Explore a Self-Funded Plan
Part Six: Ponder a Skinny Strategy

From the Dec. 2013/Jan. 2014 issue of Inc. magazine

ADAM BLUESTEIN

Adam Bluestein is a frequent contributor to Inc., writing about health care, innovation, and new technology. He lives with his wife and two children in Burlington, Vermont.




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