The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), or the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or simply the Act, created numerous employer obligations that require your attention and action.  By now we’ve all seen articles summarizing the elements of the Act that highlight the changes required from 2010, when the Act was passed, through 2015, when the final elements are phased in.   Avoid being overwhelmed by approaching the employer requirements in smaller doses.   For your first dose, start with the next due date for complying with the Act.

Employer Notification

By October 1, 2013 all employers must notify eligible employees of the new health insurance marketplace whether or not they currently offer health insurance.  The notice must include general information about the option to purchase insurance through the marketplace and basic information about the health plan offered by you, the employer, if applicable.  To make it easier to comply, the Department of Labor has issued model notices (PDF) for employers to use as their communication.

The notice can be distributed via first class mail, or electronically if the employee regularly uses a computer as part of their job.  You can choose to post the notice on your Intranet but you will also need to notify employees that the notice is posted and where it can be found.

Health Insurance Marketplace

The marketplace is an online portal used by consumers to shop for health insurance. These are also referred to as exchanges and must be in effect in each state by January 1, 2014.   The marketplace is a one-stop shop for consumers to compare health insurance options available in their market.  All plans offered in the market will meet the requirements under the Act.  Open enrollment takes place starting October 1 and, if elected, the plans will be effective January 1, 2014.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has been operating a marketplace, Health Connector, since healthcare reform in 2006.  However, many states are not prepared to have an exchange operating by the beginning of 2014, including New Hampshire and Maine.  As a result, there are 34 states that will rely on some level of assistance from the federal government.

The Marketplace does not force employees to change from obtaining health insurance from their employer; it is simply an option and may be the only option when employers don’t offer insurance.

Your Next Dose

The next step in understanding your obligations under the Act are related to your plan’s renewal in 2014.  Focus on sending out your notices in the month of September and revisit our blog for your next dosage in October.