Software giant Zenefits wants to make it easier for you to navigate Obamacare.

On Monday, the "unicorn" company -- which is reportedly valued at $4.5 billion, having raised as much as $500 million since its founding in 2013 -- announced the launch of a free Affordable Care Act Compliance tool.

Small businesses enrolled with Zenefits will now be able to do things like check if their health plans meet minimum coverage, and track which employees qualify for specific coverage. Employers can also automatically file your health claims to the IRS, come January 2016. 

The product will be available to businesses starting this fall.  

"The biggest compliance headache about to hit small businesses is the new ACA rules coming live next year, so we decided to build this compliance tool that can take what could be burdensome and complicated and make it easy for our customers," said Zenefits CEO and co-founder, Parker Conrad, in a press release introducing the product.

To wit, failure to comply with the ACA could end up costing employers as much as $174 per month, times the number of people you employ. That penalty could be higher, say, if you offer health insurance not considered affordable. (Premiums can't cost the employee more than 9.56 percent of her income.)

Other businesses, it's worth noting, offer compliance services -- but they'll charge you a fee depending on the size of your company. Payroll service ADP offers ADP Workforce Now, an online benefits administration tool, for example, but you'd have to pay to subscribe for it. 

Upstart competitor Gusto (previously called ZenPayroll) charges about $29, plus $6 per employee, for its core payroll processing and benefits service.

Zenefits' free HR tool will aggregate your health and payroll data to file for you. It makes money by collecting fees from health care providers.

"One of the reasons I can launch a new business as a single-mom entrepreneur is because my income is so low in the startup phase, health care [is] wonderfully affordable," said Susan Scrupski, founder of Big Mountain Data, in a previous interview with Inc. She had been buying her health insurance through the federal exchange.

While many entrepreneurs aren't too happy about the Obamacare victory, which requires that all businesses with more than 50 employees offer those employees health coverage, the ruling is a boon for new founders with limited cash flow.

Still, experts note that coming up with health plans that comply with the ACA hasn't been that difficult for many small businesses. 

"There have not been many significant changes for our client base as the majority of small businesses we see have less than 50 employees," notes William Brigham, the director of the Small Business Development Center in Albany, N.Y. "The one area that we have seen challenges is the sole proprietorships with no employees. Many of those businesses had health coverage through membership organizations such as Chambers and were forced into the marketplace at higher premiums or inferior coverage." 

Published on: Sep 21, 2015