What you should know about the Affordable Care Act

Aug. 8 forum can provide answers to small businesses

As we approach Oct. 1, there is a lot of continuing discussion going on about the Affordable Care Act and how its provisions will affect small businesses. Changes are taking place in the insurance industry and in options for obtaining coverage; regulations and guidance is continuing to roll out; there are a number of different implications, depending on number of employees; and there are pieces of information that are not yet known.

Given the many aspects of the act, culling through the information to find what matters most to you can be daunting. But here is something we do know: beginning January 1, 2014, additional provisions of the act become effective.

How your company is affected varies in large measure by how many employees you have. The first number to remember is 50.

Employers with 50 or more full-time employees: If you already offer health insurance, there is little or no impact. There are a couple of items to check out related to the affordability of the benefits for the employee and whether the coverage meets ‘minimum value’ standards, but most typical plans fit, and the insurance industry is actively engaged in tailoring plans to ensure that fit. If you do not offer health benefits, you do not have to – in making that decision, you will want to understand what an “employer shared responsibility payment” is and under what conditions you might be subject to one so you can factor that into your decision.

If the cost of employer-sponsored health insurance is the primary obstacle in your way, you’ll want to check out the options when they become available later this year, as parts of the act and other efforts in the industry are working to control costs.

Other employers: If you have 50 or more employees, some part-time, you will want to know how the act views part-time employees and what the term “full-time equivalent” means. If you have seasonal employees, you’ll want to know how their count is considered. How they are counted will determine whether your number of employees makes you subject to or exempt from employer shared responsibility payments. If you have fewer than 50 employees, you will want to know what you are not subject to. And if you have fewer than 25 employees, it would be good to know whether you are eligible for tax credits if you provide health insurance for your employees.

If you are one of the businesses that has already benefited from tax credits, it’s time to look into what you should do if you wish to be eligible for potentially larger tax credits in 2014.

There are undoubtedly other factors to consider — types of benefits, their costs, tax credits, shared responsibility payments – and their impacts on employee retention, the company’s bottom line and your ability to grow your business. The more knowledge you can get on these subjects, the easier it will be to make the decisions that are right for your business.

We are working with partners throughout the state to help get that information to you. There are opportunities where you can hear directly from industry leaders about the act, and we encourage business owners to take advantage of them.

Chambers, universities, federal and state entities, insurance providers and others are holding forums, posting information online and reaching out with increasing frequency, and these efforts will continue throughout the next several months. We hope to see you at one of these events soon.

You can join us from 9 a.m. to noon on Thursday, Aug. 8, for “Countdown to October 1, 2013: The Affordable Care Act and Your Small Business,” a free forum hosted by the Center for Women’s Business Advancement at Southern New Hampshire University’s Dining Center Banquet Facility in coordination with Northeast Delta Dental, WGIR-AM, the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce, the New Hampshire Division of Economic Development, Southern New Hampshire University and the New Hampshire Business Review.

Presenters will include the Commissioner of the New Hampshire Insurance Department and representatives of Northeast Delta Dental, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Anthem BCBS, Great NH Restaurants, Inc., and the U.S. Small Business Administration. To register, visit http://www.cwbanh.com/CalendarOfEvents.

Greta Johansson is New Hampshire district director of the U.S. Small Business Administration. Tom Raffio is president and CEO of Northeast Delta Dental.

Categories: Opinion