Businesses urged to prepare as Obamacare approaches

Published 8:49 am Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Officials with Health Agents for America and the National Federation of Independent Businesses held a seminar in Lake Charles on Tuesday to inform local businesses about the recent delay of the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate.

President Barack Obama announced in July that his administration is delaying the employer mandate because of the law’s complications and because businesses needed more time to prepare. Businesses now have until Jan. 1, 2015, to prove that they are providing health insurance to employees or that employees have health insurance from another source.

Ronnell Nolan, president of HAFA, said a lot of employers are “unsure, puzzled, lost, confused and have a lot of questions” about the delay.

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“A lot of people think this delay is going to make them not do the employer mandate,” she said. “That is not true. The (federal government) plans to raise $140 billion from the penalties of the mandate, so they’re going to roll it out.”

Nolan said the delayed mandate means the play-or-pay mandate won’t take effect until January 2015. Under the play-or-pay mandate, the IRS requires employers to state what kind of plan they have for employees and which workers are covered. The mandate being delayed means employers will not be penalized in 2014 and are not required to provide affordable coverage or meet essential benefits until the following year.

Nolan said the delay gives time for employers to prepare for the mandate.

“This absolutely does not mean that employers sleep through 2014,” she said. “It means get prepared. This is the time to get everything straight and know what you’re going to do in 2015.”

Nolan said one thing to take into account for employers is that the definition of a “small group” in Louisiana is 50 employees and below. The federal definition, and the definition in the Affordable Care Act, is 100 and below.

“Because we have this definition already on the books, our definition of a small group remains until 2016,” she said. “This is important because a lot of things don’t apply to small groups.”

Nolan said the new law also requires that employers notify employees of any changes to their health care plans 60 days before the changes take effect.