A step-by-step guide for businesses under the Affordable Care Act

Posted Sept. 23, 2013, at 5:25 a.m.

Wondering about health insurance for businesses under Obamacare? Here’s what you should do.

Step 1. Figure out how many “full-time equivalent” workers you employ. This is more complicated than it sounds, and may involve adding up the hours worked by any part-time employees to count toward your total. Seasonal workers also count, but there is an exception. Ask your insurance broker or accountant for details, or take a look the National Federation of Independent Business’ videos about calculating FTEs and the seasonal worker exception.

Step 2. Employ 49 or fewer full-time equivalent employees? Relax. You don’t have to offer them health insurance, unless you want to. If you have fewer than 25, you may qualify for a tax credit if you choose to provide coverage. (If you have more than 50 FTEs, you’ll have to provide health insurance next year or pay a penalty. You probably already know this and have an accountant, lawyer, or human resources expert explaining everything to you.)

Step 3. Businesses with fewer than 50 FTEs can go to Healthcare.gov or call 1-800-706-7893 to find out more about the health insurance marketplace, known as SHOP, and the tax credits.

Step 4. On Oct. 1, you can contact the marketplace or a local federally designated “navigator,” certified application counselor or other expert approved to help you learn about your options within the marketplace. Some are listed in our info box. All will be listed at Healthcare.gov and through Maine Health Access Foundation’s site www.enroll207.org. You can contribute a set amount toward your workers’ premiums, and pick one plan for all of them, probably much like you do now. Employees were supposed to be able to take that contribution and choose their own plan through the SHOP. But under a newly proposed rule, that option has been delayed until 2015 in the 33 states, including Maine, where the federal government will run the insurance marketplaces.

Step 5. Sign up for marketplace insurance through Healthcare.gov, over the phone at the toll-free number listed above, or with one of those approved experts. You have until March 31, 2014, to sign up. Or, buy a plan outside the exchange from a number of different carriers if that coverage better suits your workers’ needs. Or, finally, if you already offer insurance, find out whether your plan is grandfathered under the law (in place before the ACA was signed on March 23, 2010). You may be able to stick with it.

Step 6. Use your new marketplace insurance starting Jan. 1, 2014.

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