Ever since the 2016 election, the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been up in the air, and many employers have simply been unsure about what will come next. In the weeks after the election, it looked like an ACA repeal would be on deck early in 2017. While we can anticipate months if not years of ongoing discussion tied to the way in which health insurance will be delivered and consumed by US citizens and their employers, HR leaders should focus on the task at hand — complying with the ACA, which remains unchanged for now. Here's what to stay on top of to remain compliant in 2017.
Consolidate Data and Plan Now for Year-End Reporting
Track and consolidate data throughout the year to ensure that you'll have what you need when it's time to prepare your informational reporting at the end of the year. If you've found this process daunting, you may want to consider outsourcing some or all of it.
Are you offering your employees coverage that's considered affordable under ACA rules? Have you accounted for the change in affordability percentage for 2017? There are three safe harbor methods you can use, and as long as the coverage you're offering isn't more than 9.69 percent of whichever one you use, you're in affordability compliance for 2017.
Track Hours for Seasonal and Variable-Hour Employees
If your organization has seasonal or variable hour employees, or if you plan to have them in 2017, you'll want to brush up on the rules related to tracking hours and offering coverage in compliance with the employer mandate. You may or may not need to offer coverage to your seasonal and variable hour employees, but it's essential to set up systems to verify that you're offering coverage when it is required.
Respond to Marketplace Notices
Marketplace notices are there to alert you if, and when, you have employees who enroll in subsidized individual market coverage in the exchange. If you haven't already developed a strategy for handling marketplace notices, now is a good time to do so. There's no one-size-fits-all strategy for responding to marketplace notices, and you'll want to understand the ramifications of appealing marketplace notices.
Understand the Challenges and Develop a Plan
ACA compliance remains the same as it was in 2016, but it's helpful to skim through a summary of things that employers find most challenging about compliance. Do you have them all nailed down? If not, now's a good time to consult with advisers or a third-party vendor to see if there are ways you can improve your compliance protocol.
Health Care Reform is likely to remain in the spotlight. But until new legislation is enacted, the ACA — with its employer mandate and reporting requirements — remains the law, and accordingly, compliance remains unchanged.
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