Three Items Every Small-business Owner Should Know About the Affordable Care Act
Some of the final pieces of the Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law March 23, 2010, are falling into place as the Healthcare Marketplace opened Tuesday. Its launch will help to prepare both individuals and small businesses for the law's aim of providing all Americans with access to affordable health-insurance options by Jan. 1.
While much of the information floating around is targeted toward individuals—which includes the self-employed, too—and the changes that will affect them, what about small businesses? What do small-business owners need to know? How will this affect small-business owners? Here are three must-know items to get you started.
1. No employers are required to provide health coverage, but starting in 2015, those with 50 or more full-time workers that don't offer coverage, meeting minimum standards, will be issued a fine, or the Employer Shared Responsibility Payment. Therefore, it makes sense to find out whether your current plan meets those minimums, and if you don't offer insurance, what you need to do to be in compliance with the law.
2. Starting Tuesday, owners of small businesses having 50 or fewer employees were able to begin comparing plans in the federal government's Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP). (In 2016, companies with 100 or fewer workers will be eligible) While shopping is permitted, you will be unable to enroll online until November, according to CNN.
Most states are utilizing the federal government's site, but some, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, D.C., Hawaii, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah,
Vermont and Washington, have their own state sites. Currently using the federal site, Idaho will launch a state site in 2015.
The federal and state SHOPs simplify the coverage-seeking process by allowing you to control costs and coverage by comparing different plans side by side (this feature is delayed until November as well). Even if you already offer insurance, you can search for a better option. However, there are various requirements. You must include all full-time employees in your plan, and in most states, at least 70 percent of them must accept the plan.
3. The Small Business Health Care Tax Credit only will be applicable to those who apply for and purchase a plan via the online SHOP as of next year. Generally those with fewer than 25 full-time employees making an average of $50,000 or less a year are eligible, but you must pay at least 50 percent of their premium costs.
Want to estimate what your tax credit will be? Try this tool.