CCJ Fall Symposium: Four tips to consider with Affordable Care Act launch date

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gardnerNext month, the first elements of the Affordable Care Act — also known as “ObamaCare” or ACA — will take effect in the United States. And even though certain elements of the new healthcare law have been delayed until 2015 or even 2016, fleets still need to be preparing now for changes that will occur soon.

At the CCJ Fall Symposium in Scottsdale, AZ, today, Kathryne Feary-Gardner, an attorney with the Scopelitis, Garvin, Light, Hanson & Feary law firm, briefed fleet executives on a variety of concerns and actions they should take as the healthcare law approaches.

And although the new legislation is complex, Feary-Gardner boiled down to four acts fleets can take now to make sure they are in compliance with the new law:

* First, she recommends fleets begin tracking both part- and full-time employees’ hours in 2014. This is important, she says, because the new law applies to business with 50 or more full-time employees. But, smaller businesses on the threshold of this qualification must figure part-time hours into their equation to determine whether they will be required to provide insurance for their employees as well. This requirement, called the “Employer Mandate,” has been delayed until 2015. But the determination as to whether a business qualifies for it will be based on 2014 employee hours worked.

* Next, Feary-Gardner says business must develop a compliance strategy — basically deciding if they will “pay, or play.” In other words, it may make sense for some businesses to pay the penalty for not providing health insurance for employees (at least initially) until rates decrease. Other, businesses, may find it more affordable to provide coverage for employees.

* Next, smaller fleets need to determine if they are eligible for a Small Business Tax Credit to help them provide coverage for their employees.

* And finally, if you already offer your employees healthcare, determine if that plan is acceptable under ACA guidelines and will therefore be “grandfathered” in as a viable plan. Feary-Gardner notes that some existing plans may have to be tweaked to adhere to new ACA guidelines; notably the requirement to cover dependent children up to 26 years old and the removal of preexisting conditions as a barrier to coverage. But once those changes are in place, the plans will be in compliance with the new law.