Business owners across the country got some unexpected breathing room last week when the Obama administration announced it would delay implementing the employer mandate under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) until 2015. Technically, you’re still supposed to provide coverage for full-time workers starting January 1, 2014 if you have 50 or more employees. But if you don’t, you won’t be penalized for another year.
Why the delay?
Some critics claim this was a politically motivated decision, with mid-term elections coming up next year. But with businesses still struggling with the burdens and challenges of the new law, the administration was getting an earful from concerned and frustrated employers. Business advocacy groups have been working closely with the administration for some time to reduce the costs and burdens of implementing the ACA. So supporters say this is merely a necessary adjustment to the law.
What will you do with your extra year?
Regardless of the motives behind the decision, businesses now have another year to deal with the complexities of the reporting requirements and other aspects of the law. So how will you take advantage of the extra year?
Here’s a 5-step action plan for getting the most mileage out of this decision:
1. Don’t get complacent. You’re not off the hook – the law is still on the books and the employer mandate is still scheduled to be implemented in 2015, including the fines.
2. Keep your eyes and ears on Washington. With the Affordable Care Act being such a political hot button issue, your benefits manager needs to stay up to date on the politics of the reforms and be prepared to respond to further changes in the law.
3. Minimize and strategize. You’ve got an extra year to plan ahead, so use it wisely to make sure you have all of your ducks in a row, find out what other employers are doing, and take steps to minimize your costs and the impact of the new law.
4. Have a backup plan. You might as well plan for the inevitable and prepare for compliance with the employer mandate in 2015. But it’s also a good idea to have a Plan B in the event the employer coverage requirement is done away with altogether.
5. Use the exchanges wisely. The delayed mandate will likely push more employees into the exchanges, which are still scheduled to go online on October 1 of this year. If you’re a small business, you can use the exchanges to find coverage for yourself and your employees. If you’re a large business, you can be a valuable resource to your employees by offering them information about getting coverage through the exchanges. This can help you be seen as an employee-friendly company, and save you money by getting employees you may be required to cover later into the exchanges now.
With all of the uncertainties and complexities of the Affordable Care Act, the delayed mandate is a welcome relief for most employers. Make sure you take full advantage of your “free year,” and you and your employees will be even better prepared for the full implementation of the new law.
If you haven’t outsourced your COBRA administration yet, now is the time to explore your options. With the added challenge of PPACA compliance, most HR teams welcome the relief of outsourcing COBRA administration. To further explore the option, download our free report – “In Search of ROO (Return on Outsourcing).”