Affordable Care Act Enrollment Notification

stethoscopeDespite all of the confusion and back-and-forth political posturing with threats to defund Obamacare, like it or not, open enrollment begins Oct. 1… unless Congress moves to delay yet another portion of the controversial Affordable Care Act. Regardless, as a restaurant or bar owner, pay attention and comply with current requirements despite the moving target aspect of them.

The Health Insurance Exchanges (HIX) will open on Oct. 1, and restaurant owners and employers are required to notify all employees of their existence and inform them that they may qualify for tax credits if they cannot afford their employer’s plan. This notification must be in writing and must be addressed to each individual employee. According to the National Restaurant Association, the employee-notice requirement applies to all employees covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

The National Restaurant Association’s article, “ACA requires employers to notify employees about exchanges” states: “The notices also must inform employees who opt to buy coverage through exchanges (instead of employer-sponsored plans) that they could lose their employer’s contribution (if any) to employer-sponsored coverage. Finally, the notice must explain that health plans bought on exchanges don’t have the same tax benefits as employer-sponsored coverage.”

When is ACA notification required?

Existing employees must be notified by Oct. 1, 2013. New hires starting between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, 2013 must be notified at the time of hire. Starting in 2014, new employees must be notified within 14 days of the hire. This includes all employees: full-time, part-time, seasonal and temporary.

The Department of Labor has released a model notification employers can use to meet the requirement. There are models for employers who offer health care coverage and for those that do not. Spanish versions are also available.

Who must be notified of the Health Insurance Exchanges?

According to Michelle Neblett, director of Labor and Workforce Policy at the National Restaurant Association (as quoted in “Last minute prep for the Oct. 1 Obamacare deadline” by Pizzamarketplace.com): “This requirement is for all employers who are subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act, which is basically those who are required to pay minimum wage. This is a big priority, and the system will be in place for new hires going forward, forever.” She added, “Employees have a right to get that notification. It only needs to be done one time for an employee and it can be done in a variety of ways — in paper form, in pay stubs, electronically. The key is that the employee actually receives the information. If you put a stack of notifications in the break room, it won’t meet the threshold.”

Oct. 1 looms large. Be certain to notify your employees about the Affordable Care Act’s Health Insurance Exchanges and the opportunities they may have to participate if they choose to do so.

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