Thursday, August 29, 2013

PPACA More Unpopular Than Ever...

Just months before its main provisions go into effect, a new poll shows that President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is more unpopular than ever.
According to the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 49 percent of Americans say the law is a bad idea, the highest number recorded on this question since the poll began asking it in 2009.

Just 37 percent say the PPACA is a good idea.

The large number of law opponents isn’t great news for the administration, which has been struggling to market the law in the months before the legislation's main components kick in. Enrollment in the law’s health care exchanges is set to begin Oct. 1, with coverage beginning in January.

Many critics have slammed the law for doing little to rein in out-of-control health care costs, though curbing costs was a main initiative of PPACA.

The new poll found that about four in 10 of those surveyed think they will be worse off under the law. By comparison, 19 percent say they’ll be better off, and 39 percent say the law won’t make much of a difference.

The poll also shows deep divisions by political party affiliation. By a 35 percent to 11 percent margin, Democrats say they’ll be better off under PPACA. But Republicans say they’ll be worse off, 67 percent to 4 percent.

Those without health insurance also have a more positive view of the health care law than those who have insurance.

Previous surveys have found that Americans are widely confused over the law and how it will affect them.

Read more here

Friday, August 23, 2013

'Pay or play' postponed; most plan design, notice and fee requirements remain in place

Health Care Law's Employer Mandate Delayed Until January 2015

'Pay or play' postponed; most plan design, notice and fee requirements remain in place

The Obama administration caught the U.S. business community by surprise when it announced a one-year delay, until Jan. 1, 2015, in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA or ACA) mandate that employers with 50 or more full-time-equivalent employees provide health care coverage to their full-time employees (those working on average 30 or more hours per week) or pay steep penalties.

The announcement, by Mark J. Mazur, the assistant secretary for tax policy at the U.S. Treasury Department, was made via the Treasury Notes blog late in the day on July 2, 2013. Mazur said the mandate's delay is intended to "provide time to adapt health coverage and reporting systems while employers are moving toward making health coverage affordable and accessible for their employees." He added: "During this 2014 transition period we strongly encourage employers to maintain or expand health coverage. Also, our actions today do not affect employees’ access to the premium tax credits available under the ACA (nor any other provision of the ACA)."

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

It’s the Affordable Care Act. But What Is Affordable?

It’s the Affordable Care Act. But What Is Affordable?

Under the Affordable Care Act, if a company with 50 employees hopes to avoid the penalty in the so-called employer mandate, it is not enough to merely offer those workers health insurance. The insurance must be “affordable,” among other things, and the law is very specific about what affordable means: It means the employee’s share of the premium cannot exceed 9.5 percent of the employee’s household income.
If this seems straightforward, putting it into action has been anything but. Household income is the benchmark because the Affordable Care Act ties affordability to the tax credits and subsidies available to help individuals purchase insurance in the new marketplaces created by the law. In fact, the penalty for employers who offer unaffordable insurance comes into play only when employees use these subsidies to buy their own insurance rather than accept the company’s coverage.
But employers, of course, are in no position to know what their employees’ household income might be, least of all as determined by the esoteric definition of household income used by the Internal Revenue Service. Among other things, determining household income would force employers to find out how much their employees’ spouses make and even to track down certain private household expenses, like alimony payments.

So the I.R.S., which is writing the regulations for the mandate, has proposed three alternatives to determining household income, safe harbors that would permit employers to comply with the mandate and avoid the penalty. First, a company could use the wages it reports to the I.R.S. on Form W-2 as a substitute for household income. So long as the employee’s share of the insurance premiums is no more than 9.5 percent of the wages reported in Box 1 of the form (meaning the amount excludes deferrals such as 401k or flexible spending account contributions), the coverage would be deemed affordable. (Again, this is for companies with more than 50 employees; smaller companies are under no obligation to provide health insurance.)

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Friday, August 16, 2013

Bracing for "Obamacare," Some Businesses Try PEO's

Bracing for "Obamacare," Some Businesses Try PEO's

ESCO Communications, an Indianapolis-based audio/visual equipment installer, has provided health insurance for its 100 employees for more than 40 years, but when CEO Chip Roth was faced with 40 percent price hike on the company's plan last year, he realized he needed to make a change. The cost increase--coupled with expected complexities of the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare--led Roth to WorkSmart Systems, a local professional employer organization that pools health benefits for the employees of 200 small companies.

"Health insurance was the real driver," Roth says. "By joining a larger pool and spreading the risk around, we were able to keep our rates the same as they were."

Read more here:

Monday, August 12, 2013

7 Key Terms in the Affordable Care Act that you should know

The Affordable Care Act includes new health care reform terms used to describe parts of the law that affect small business. Understanding what these terms mean can help both self-employed individuals and small employers better navigate the law and take advantage of reforms that are helping to lower premium costs and increase access to quality, affordable health insurance.

Here are seven terms in the Affordable Care Act that small businesses should know.

1. Affordable Insurance Exchange

Also known as the health insurance “Marketplace,” the Affordable Insurance Exchange is a new transparent, competitive insurance marketplace where individuals and small businesses can purchase affordable and qualified health benefit plans. The Marketplace for small employers, known as the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP), and the Individual Marketplace for consumers and those who are self-employed, will open in all states on January 1, 2014. Enrollment begins on October 1, 2013. To get the latest updates on enrollment, sign up for email and text alerts today.

2. Employer Shared Responsibility

Although employers are not required to provide health coverage to their employees under the Affordable Care Act, employers of a certain size will be subject to the Employer Shared Responsibility provision of the law. Under this provision, beginning in 2014, business owners with at least 50 full-time or full-time equivalent (FTE) employees that do not offer health coverage to their full-time employees may be subject to a shared responsibility payment under the health care law. A full-time employee is generally one who is employed an average of 30 or more hours per week. Businesses with fewer than 50 full-time or FTE employees are generally not affected by these provisions. To assist you, the IRS has developed a helpful set of Q&As.

3. Essential Health Benefits

The Affordable Care Act ensures that health plans offered in the individual and small group markets, both inside and outside of the health insurance Marketplace, offer a comprehensive package of items and services, known as essential health benefits. Essential health benefits must include services within at least ten core categories, among them emergency services; maternity and newborn care; prescription drugs; and preventive and wellness services. For more information on these requirements, visit

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

What if my business has 50 or more employees?

If your business has 50 or more employees, you are considered a "large business" under the health care law. Several important parts of the law apply to you.

Most large employers can’t use the SHOP Marketplace

If you have more than 50 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees, you generally won't be able to use the SHOP Marketplace to offer health insurance to them.
Starting in 2016, all SHOPs will be open to employers with up to 100 FTEs.

The Employer Shared Responsibility Payment for 2015

The Employer Shared Responsibility Payment is a new requirement under the health care law that will apply to some larger employers in 2015. You may have to make this payment if you have 50 or more full-time equivalent employees and:

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