Employers Must Act by October 1, 2013 - To give a new notice to employees about health insurance - whether you provide and pay for health benefits or not, and no matter how many employees you have.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act "PPACA" has imposed new obligations on employers and group health plans. One such obligation on employers is to provide a notice to all employees regarding the upcoming availability of health insurance marketplaces beginning in 2014. The U.S. Department of Labor "DOL" has recently published guidance regarding employers' compliance with this notice requirement and has also indicated that related changes to COBRA continuation coverage election notices will be needed to reflect the availability of health insurance marketplaces (exchanges).
Overview of the Notice. The new Notice is intended to inform employees of health insurance coverage options and give information regarding the existence of new health insurance marketplaces, i.e., "exchanges". It also serves to ensure that employees understand the trade-off when they give up employer-provided coverage and instead choose coverage under the health insurance marketplaces (e.g., loss of the employer contribution toward the cost of health plan benefits, which is usually provided on a tax-free basis).
Employers Subject to the Notice Requirement.
PPACA imposed this notice requirement by creating a new section under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act "FLSA". This means YOU.
Who Must Receive the Notice. All current employees and new hires must receive the new Notice, regardless of whether the employee is eligible for or enrolled in the employer's group health plan. (Means whether or not you offer or pay for a health plan as well!)
Timing of the Notice. Employers are required to provide the new Notice to each current employee no later than October 1, 2013. Employers are required to provide the Notice to each new employee at the time of hire beginning on October 1, 2013.
The October 1, 2013 compliance date for the Notice coincides with open enrollment periods opening on October 1, 2013 for coverage under the health insurance marketplaces that first become available as of 1-1-14.
Model Notice. To satisfy the requirement to provide this new Notice, the DOL has published model Notices. There is one model for employers who do not offer a health plan to any employees: Click here and another model for employers who offer a health plan to some/all of its employees: Click here.
Note: Employers must complete sections of the Notice prior to distributing it to employees, including employer contact information; for employers that do offer a health plan to employees, information about eligibility for coverage under the health plan, and whether the health plan meets the "minimum value standard." Other information requested as part of the DOL's model for employers that offer a health plan to employees is optional (but likely must be provided to any employees who ask for it for their own applications to enroll in a health insurance marketplace plan).
Most employers will need help from their insurance agent or broker to complete this form - DON'T wait until September to start this process!