Monday, April 22, 2013

Small business help for Obamacare


Small business owners really need to be focused on what they need to do in terms of compliance in 2013 – they can’t wait until 2014 to decide how to react to the new regulations under the health care law. 
-Jennifer Pierotti, Manager, Health Care Policy, US Chamber of Commerce

The upcoming healthcare changes in the US have the potential to dramatically impact small businesses, including snow and landscaping professionals. SIMA interviewed Jennifer Pierotti of the US Chamber of Commerce, and asked her some key questions related to the impending implementation of Obamacare.

There were some recent announcements related to deadlines associated with health care exchanges for small businesses, what actually happened?

The SHOP Exchanges, or the Small Business Health Options Program Exchanges, are the new exchanges meant to provide greater choice for employers and employees of small businesses than currently seen in the small group market.  The Chamber is hopeful that the SHOP Exchanges will offer a way to access, compare, and provide employer-sponsored coverage to employees.

The Administration announced in April 2013 that it would delay the ability of employers to offer the “employee choice” option  in the SHOP Exchanges until 2015 for states with federally-facilitated or state partnership model exchanges.  Employers who purchase coverage through the SHOP Exchange will choose one health plan to offer its employees, which is similar to how many employers currently offer coverage to their employees.  State-based SHOP Exchanges, however, may offer the “employee choice” option starting in January 2014, and many states are planning on having employee choice right away.   

What is the most critical thing that a small business owner should be thinking about related to upcoming healthcare changes?

In January 2014, the employer mandate provision of the health reform law will take effect, and it will be the first time that a federal mandate requires certain employers to offer and in many cases subsidize prescribed health care coverage or potentially face a penalty.  Businesses with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees (a calculation that not only takes into consideration full-time employees, but part-time employees as well) must figure out whether they will be required to offer coverage and what their penalty exposure may be.  Further, simply offering coverage is not enough.  To avoid a potential penalty assessment, coverage offered to full-time employees must meet the minimum value and affordability requirements.  

In addition to the employer mandate, small businesses also need to consider how they may interface with their state’s exchange. Open enrollment begins in October 2013, allowing employers with fewer than 100 employees to offer coverage through the SHOP Exchange.  Along with the exchanges and the employer mandate come various new reporting requirements to ensure necessary data is collected and shared among employers, employees, plans, and the federal and state governments. 

Are there any good resources online that provide facts and helpful tips?

In October of 2012, we launched our Health Reform 101 website  with education information, particularly geared towards our small business members, which includes:
  • A Coverage or Penalty Chart helps a business determine if it has to offer coverage and/or pay a penalty due to the employer mandate.
  • A Penalty Calculator assists businesses in figuring out whether they must offer coverage and what the potential penalty might be under the employer mandate.
  •  An Added Costs Table highlights the revenue provisions of the law, the effective date, and the revenue impact.
  • An interactive timeline outlines when key provisions of the law will take effect and offers a brief description of each provision.
  • The FAQ page offers in-depth answers and definitions to help businesses navigate the employer mandate.
  • The Press Room and Video pages provide recent news and video coverage of how the health law is affecting the business community.
For SIMA's position on Obamacare and other legislative issues, download this pdf.

Jennifer Pierotti is the Manager, Health Care Policy for the US Chamber of Commerce, the world's largest business federation representing 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations. Jennifer will be presenting during SIMA's 2013 Snow Strategies Forum August 5th-6th, 2013 in Washington, DC.

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