Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Mandatory Health Exchange Notice - Where A California Employer Can Look For Help

It is a sad coincidence that the deadline of one event (federal budget) matched with the date when another event started rolling out (Health Care Reform). It is even sadder if the two events are related and the impasse on one may get the other stuck in its opening gates. It is for politicians to wrestle in search of a compromise; meanwhile, the law's one of the initial stages came into force, people are enrolling, and the California Employer is now mandated* to give employees a certain notice about health exchange. Where can one look for tips and hints, or, better, for suggestions on the notice's form? I have assembled here what I was able to find so far:

U.S. Department of Labor website provides two model notices, one for those employers who provide a health plan and one for those who don't. The page greats you with a reminder that it won't be updated during the shutdown. It also offers a FAQ section, with only one, but very important question answered: are there any penalties for not providing a notice? The answer is "No." This is very relieving, especially since the roll out did not go flawlessly, and there are some noted glitches.

Who is subject to the notice requirement? According to the Guidelines, it is analogous to the minimum wage FLSA requirements and "applies to employers that employ one or more employees who are engaged in, or produce goods for, interstate commerce. For most firms, a test of not less than $500,000 in annual dollar volume of business applies." Yes, small businesses are subject to the law. This is confirmed on the state level, see California's page designed for those who employ "up to 50 employees." If you have less than 25 employees, you may be eligible for some tax credits, but you are not off the hook. And keep in mind that almost anything is "interstate commerce," since it involves exchange of nationwide currency.

Locally in California, employers are invited to start their familiarization with the new law at this website: https://www.coveredca.com/
This program, Covered California, is directly related to the state-level implementation of the Federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ("PPAC"). I failed to find there any model notices though. This area of law is rapidly changing: just today, Governor Brown signed 10 new bills related to the program.

* The Guidelines state that the employer must provide a notice. The FAQ section however says that there is no penalty for failing to do so. You decide, how mandatory the provision is.

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